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General contractor in garage accident is midsized firm near Tallahassee

The general contractor for the collapsed parking garage project at Miami-Dade College, Ajax Building Corp., is a 54-year-old firm based in Midway, near Tallahassee that has built many educational and government projects over the years. The garage is its first project in Miami-Dade County.

Listed among the Top 200 Private Companies in Florida by Florida Trend in 2011, Ajax has well over $150 million in projects under way. It was awarded the contract to design and build the five-story concrete garage by Miami-Dade College based on its qualifications, not on a low-bid process, according to Lisa Nason, an outside spokeswoman for the builder.

Among other jobs, Ajax is currently working on a $29.9 million public safety facility for Leon County and the city of Tallahassee; a $16.9 million classroom and office space at the University of Florida at Gainesville; and a $30.3 million renovation and addition of Duval County Public Schools’ Robert E. Lee High School.

Les Grove, area director for the Fort Lauderdale office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, confirmed the agency is investigating the accident. The agency has up to six months to issue citations in relation to the accident. The OSHA office has jurisdiction over Miami-Dade.

Sandi Copes Poreda, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Business & Professional Regulation, said the department doesn’t have any public complaints against the licensed professionals with Ajax Building Corp. The licenses are current and active. DBPR complaints become public record 10 days after probable cause has been found, according to state statute.

On Thursday, Ajax president and CEO William P. Byrne, held a press conference at the accident site at MDC West Campus in Doral. “How do you feel?’’ asked a TV reporter. He answered that he felt terrible.

Byrne, who owns the company with vice president John B. Smith II, a grandson of the founder, plans to be on hand at MDC again Friday.

Ajax company officials have been waiting for fire-rescue and police officials to release the fatal accident site back to the company, Nason said.

Ajax, which has about 100 full-time employees, has said that in addition to working with federal, state and local officials, “We also intend to conduct an internal review with our construction partners, Harvard Jolly and Coreslab.’’

Coreslab Structures Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based firm that has operations in Medley and throughout the United States, provided the precast concrete used in construction of the garage.

Mario Francisosa, president and director of Coreslab (Miami) Inc., didn’t return telephone calls to his office in Ontario. Coreslab’s website said it has been in the precast concrete business since 1975. William Harvard, of Harvard Jolly architects in St. Petersburg, also couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Harvard Jolly designed the $24-million garage at MDC, the latest of several projects it handled for the college, including a 7,300 square foot lecture hall in 2009, according to its website. Harvard Jolly has been involved in projects at numerous educational, healthcare and public facilities.

The architectural firm said it has designed more than 30 parking facilities with more than 20,000 spaces spanning 7.5 million square feet over the past three decades.

Les Grove, area director for the Fort Lauderdale office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, confirmed the agency is investigating the accident but declined to elaborate. The agency has up to six months to issue citations in relation to the accident. The Fort Lauderdale office of OSHA has jurisdiction over Miami-Dade County.

Sandi Copes Poreda, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Business & Professional Regulation, said the department doesn’t have any public complaints against the licensed professionals with Ajax Building Corp. The licenses are current and active.

Staff writer Andres Viglucci contributed to this.

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