The contractor behind the bridge that collapsed last year at Florida International University won a contract extension Tuesday at Miami-Dade’s Miami International Airport.
County commissioners approved the extension into 2020 for Munilla Construction Management without discussion, meaning none of the 12 members asked that the item be placed on the agenda for debate.
The unanimous vote extends MCM’s streak of extensions on the eight-year-old agreement to run construction projects at the airport, but this is the first successful vote since the 2018 collapse of the bridge it was building for FIU. Six people died in the catastrophe, and MCM filed for bankruptcy protection in March.
MCM, a reliable donor to commissioners before the March 15, 2018, collapse, has been one of the most successful contractors in Miami-Dade. The 2011 agreement to oversee small airport construction projects was originally supposed to last five years and cover about $50 million of work. Multiple extensions let it more than double to $130 million, with about $86 million of that already billed and completed.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration extended the contract in February, and asked county commissioners to ratify keeping MCM at the airport through August 2020. A bidding process, open to MCM and other contractors, is set to be approved by commissioners this fall. A Gimenez memo said the county will cancel MCM’s existing contract once a replacement firm is found. MIA expects the new contract to be awarded by the end of the year.
The Gimenez memo said the extension won’t add costs to the original MCM contract, which is still dipping into the $40 million covered under a 2017 expansion of the work that was approved by the commission. On Tuesday, all commissioners except for Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson voted for another MCM extension. Edmonson did not attend the meeting.
MCM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, saying the FIU bridge collapse had left it unable to borrow the money needed to complete jobs and remain solvent. The company said the bankruptcy protection allowed it to secure $18 million in financing needed to keep crews working, and its website states “our doors remain open and we continue to serve our clients with the level of excellence they have come to expect.”
MCM is in the process of settling claims with victims of the March 15, 2018, bridge collapse that killed six people. The company declined to comment on the MIA extension.
Before the bridge collapse, the family-owned Miami company was one of the most successful contractors in local government, with a string of infrastructure and public works projects across Miami-Dade and beyond. It also has won Pentagon contracts for work at the Guantánamo base in Cuba.
Gimenez’s wife, Lourdes, is a cousin to the Munilla brothers who run the company, and both of the Gimenez sons have worked for MCM in the past. Before the bridge collapse, the company was also an active political donor, giving about $100,000 to incumbent county commissioners and $500,000 in federal races.
A June report by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration faulted the bridge’s designer, FIGG, for producing a flawed structure, and MCM for, among other things, not exercising “independent judgment with regard to implementing necessary safety measures.”
The Gimenez memo recommending the MCM extension made no mention of the FIU bridge collapse. Lester Sola, who runs MIA as Gimenez’s aviation director, said the county is confident MCM can continue supervising construction crews for small jobs at the airport. Sola said he had not read the OSHA report, but did read news articles about it.
“There are really small projects at the airport,” Sola said. “You have to look at the entire performance of the contractor at the airport. They have been performing exceptionally well. ... We had no hesitation recommending they continue.”