The Miami Beach City Commission will gather 9 a.m. Wednesday at city hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr., for its monthly meeting
Among the more important issues on the agenda:
(The Herald will update this story throughout the day as votes take place.)
• Shady contractors
At the request of Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, the city’s legal staff has proposed an amendment to the city’s debarment procedures, through which bad-behaving companies are banned from city business or stripped of their contracts. The updated language, if approved, would establish new suspension procedures, a penalty with financial consequences but less harsh than debarment.
Bower asked for an update to the legislation following last month’s arrest of former purchasing director Gus Lopez, who is accused of rigging several city capital improvements contracts and accepting kickbacks from a consultant for years. More than a dozen contracts were tainted, according to police and prosecutors.
A police affidavit filed at the time of Lopez’s arrest listed the contracts and contractors involved in the alleged scheme. None of the contractors was charged with a crime or accused of wrongdoing. But some of the companies continue to work on city projects, or are regular bidders on Miami Beach jobs.
That led Bower and commissioners to ask for a police investigation into all contractors tied to deals allegedly tainted by Lopez. They also said the city needs to consider consequences for any misbehaving companies.
Update: Commissioners unanimously gave preliminary approval to the measure, hoping to make it easier to penalize contractors suspected of engaging in criminal behavior or flaunting city contracts. For instance, one of the proposed changes would allow commissioners to bar contractors from bidding on jobs if they admit to engaging in corruption but are granted immunity by investigators.
The vote comes one day after prosecutors formally filed 63 felony counts against Lopez. A final vote will take place after the commissioners on the city’s Neighborhoods committee take a deeper look at the proposed legislation.
• Towing regulations and fees
Beach Towing and Tremont Towing, the two companies contracted to tow cars for Miami Beach’s police and parking departments, have lobbied for months for an increased profit in their public business. They may get their wish Wednesday.
Commissioners could approve new three-year permits and increase towing rates for the two companies, which argue that they are making little to no profit despite public perception that their business is lucrative. Administrators have recommended against a rate increase but suggested new long-term permits be approved with a litany of new industry regulations, including GPS monitors on tow trucks and drug screenings for towing employees.
The item, has repeatedly been delayed, as was the case last month.
Update: By a 4 to 3 vote, commissioners approved new three-year contracts for Beach Towing and Tremont Towing that call for new regulations on the industry but also grant the companies a rate increase on visitors to the island city.
Commissioners Jerry Libbin and Ed Tobin, and Mayor Matti Herrera Bower voted in opposition.
The two towing companies had requested rate increases over three years. But commissioners agreed to an increase in the first year, which should mean an increase of roughly $36 for the average driver whose car is towed by Miami Beach police or parking officers. Miami Beach residents will not see an increase in cost.
In exchange, Tremont and Beach agreed to drug test employees, place GPS on wreckers, and other regulatory measures intended to better watch businesses with rogue reputations.
• Flooding and sea level rise
Commissioners could vote to spend about $200 million during the next two decades to address flooding and account for rising seas.
The plan before commissioners Wednesday was crafted by engineering firm CDM Smith and is an update to an outdated 1997 stormwater master plan mandated by an old interlocal agreement with the county on waste discharge issues. The new plan, considered ambitious in its scope, aims to better handle rain storms and protect the city from potential level rises in the bay with pumps and seawalls.
The issue was up for a vote last month, but commissioners deferred the item.
Update: Commissioners approved the plan late Wednesday with little discussion.