Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has decided not to throw out a major sewer-repairs bid that has been dogged by potential irregularities. But he’s not accepting one of the two proposals on the table, either.
Instead, Gimenez announced Friday that he will convene a new committee to review the submissions by AECOM Technical Services and CH2M Hill and rank the firms again. After that, the mayor will make a recommendation to county commissioners as to which contractor to hire to oversee $1.6 billion in federally mandated fixes to miles of crumbling pipes.
“It is important that this selection be completed via a fair and equitable process,” Gimenez said in a statement.
The bid will result in the selection of a construction manager for the extensive sewer upgrades the county has committed to build as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The agreement has yet to be signed by a judge, pending a challenge by Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, a clean-water advocacy group.
Gimenez’s decision drew criticism from CH2M, which had received the first-place ranking in the bid.
Al Dotson, a lawyer and lobbyist for the firm, said in a statement that Gimenez chose to further delay awarding the contract to the detriment of the sewer system. Dotson also said that “if today’s decision moves forward” — hinting at a potential challenge — the county would give AECOM another shot at the project, disregarding a selection committee’s opinion.
“Nothing could be less fair and less proper than changing the rules midstream, especially considering CH2M Hill has 10 times more experience managing similar projects than its competitor,” Dotson said.
Miguel De Grandy, a lawyer and lobbyist for AECOM, praised Gimenez’s plan and reiterated that AECOM acted appropriately by complaining about the bid process and arguing that the key issue — an additional, substantial written submission by CH2M — was improper.
“We feel our position was vindicated and believe the mayor has arrived at a fair result,” De Grandy said.
The selection committee had ranked CH2M first. But AECOM called the process into question, saying CH2M should not have been allowed to hand in more than 400 pages of additional bid materials directly to committee members after seeing AECOM’s complete submission.
AECOM was given a chance to delay a committee meeting and respond. It turned down the offer and later protested in writing.
Gimenez considered starting the bid over from scratch, according to a memo drafted but never sent by his office in September. He eventually decided to ask Joe Centorino, executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, to weigh in.
Centorino and Interim Inspector General Patra Liu said last week that the county document soliciting the bids was flawed because it did not expressly prohibit the submission of additional documents after the published deadline. The ethics commission determined Thursday that CH2M’s additional submission was permissible, given the way the bid rules were written.
The county attorney’s office had reached the same conclusion, which is why the bid made it to Gimenez’s desk. But the mayor has said that even if nothing illegal took place, a perception of unfairness would cloud the contract.
On Friday, he said he would appoint an advisory committee with similar qualifications as the previous selection committee, though the members themselves will be different. Gimenez’s administration had taken the extraordinary step of creating a selection committee composed of two county staffers and three outsiders with relevant experience.
AECOM and CH2M will be given two weeks to submit any new bid materials or substitute their prior proposals. The county’s water and sewer department will review the documents, ask any necessary questions in writing and set an advisory committee meeting for the two firms to deliver final presentations.
The committee will then evaluate and rank the firms, based on the criteria established in the original bid.