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Miami Beach close to selecting firm to manage tennis programs

 

The Miami Beach commission may finally award a controversial tennis-management contract in April.

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

The Miami Beach commission may finally award a controversial tennis-management contract in April.

City commissioners on Wednesday decided to reinstate a competitive process to select a new management company for the city’s tennis centers.

The city had asked companies to bid on the contract, and then threw out all the bids after the current operator ranked last based on the established criteria.

Now, a mostly new commission has decided to reinstate the old bid process. They will once again consider the competing proposals submitted under that process, and select a company to run its tennis centers.

More than a year ago, Miami Beach asked for companies to bid on a contract to manage the city’s tennis centers. An evaluation committee was convened, and the companies were all ranked based on their qualifications, the proposed scope of services, and fees.

The current operator, Green Square, ranked last. Miami Beach Tennis Management ranked first. Among the differences between the bids the companies submitted is the revenue they would guaranty to pay to the city: $120,000 from Miami Beach Tennis Management versus $48,000 from Green Square.

Some commissioners and players had concerns about Green Square’s maintenance of the tennis facilities it runs. But supporters of the company filled commission chambers to plead that the commission keep Green Square in place.

So commissioners in September 2013 decided to throw out the bids and rankings. They decided to stick with their Green Square on a month-to-month basis while working out a longer-term solution.

Then, in February, a largely new commission voted to instead give the contract to Miami Beach Tennis Management, the company that had ranked first in the original bid process. The company employs as a lobbyist a political consultant who worked on three new elected officials’ election campaigns.

But, since a previous commission had scrapped the original bid process, the city needed a written recommendation by the city manager to waive competitive bidding. In most cases, cities require a competitive process to ensure that taxpayers get the best prices and services.

The city manager, Jimmy Morales, had not given a written recommendation regarding whether the bid process should be waived. So, at the same February meeting, Beach commissioners undid their award of the contract to Miami Beach Tennis Management.

The idea was that the commission would address the issue at its next meeting, giving the manager time to write a recommendation.

“Someone wise once told me that the right process is sometimes better than the right results,” said Commissioner Micky Steinberg.

For the March meeting, Morales wrote a recommendation not to waive competitive bidding. He stood by an original recommendation to negotiate a contact with the top-ranked bidder, Miami Beach Tennis Management.

On Wednesday, commissioners voted unanimously to rescind the September 2013 commission decision to reject all bids. The city will now reinstate the bid process.

“It reinstates a process that I thought was a fair process, and so to me that’s much preferable to waiving bids,” Morales said.

At their April meeting, commissioners will consider the proposals submitted during the now re-instated bids, along with the city manager’s recommendation, and probably make a decision on which company should manage the city’s tennis centers.

“We’re going to utilize the exact evaluation materials that were presented last year,” said Mayor Philip Levine. “We’re going to re-look at all of it and then were going to re-vote.”

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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