South Miami

South Miami keeps same parking contractor

South Miami commissioners have voted unanimously to allow City Manger Steven Alexander to negotiate a five-year agreement with LAZ Parking to manage the city’s parking garage and electronic meters.

LAZ Parking held a three-year contract with the city through March 31 and has since held month to month contracts.

Despite the unanimous vote, there was concern from the dais on the deal.

In its proposal, LAZ states: “Our service to the City has had what can only be described as an unprecedented revolving door of the City's top management…This has been the ultimate true test of LAZ Parking's extensive capabilities because, despite the turmoil, the City has seen parking revenues increasing each and every year.”

The city manager has seen several city managers come and go in recent years.

Commissioner Josh Liebman brought the language to the commission’s attention at the meeting.

“This is a $1.2 million contract,” Liebman said from the dais. “I don’t know that I would put that in the contract for $1.2 million. But to keep insulting the city, I don’t understand this. This is a $1.2 million contract and this is the way it was written.”

But Luis Macedo, General Manager of LAZ Parking of Florida, said the language was not meant to imply a sour relationship.

“LAZ never intended to insinuate that the city was anything but a great partner,” Macedo said. “LAZ complied with its contractual obligations to the city.”

LAZ Parking beat out two other companies with a bid of $1,120,419 for the contract.

“LAZ Parking did end up being the best deal for the city,” Alexander said.

LAZ Parking enforcement brings in an average annual revenue of $700,000 to the city. The city would pay LAZ $213,156 in the first year of the contract, increasing gradually to $235,285 in its final year.

“I never pay much attention to the preamble,” Mayor Philip Stoddard said. “Anybody can say anything, so you need to really look at the details of the contract itself. I try not to get distracted by that. You look and see what they are going to do and what they’ve done.”

Another issue raised by Liebman regarded yearly audits that LAZ agreed to perform when the city signed a three-year contract in July 2011.

“Where is the audit?” Liebman asked at the meeting. “Where are the customer surveys twice a year? Where is this positive marketing campaign for parking?”

In the contract, LAZ states: “The contractor shall pay for a yearly independent audit of its books and records, concerning its administration of the Parking System and present the city with the contractor’s yearly audited financial statements each year during the term of this contract on a date to be decided by the City Manager.”

LAZ submitted the past audits to the city following the June 17 meeting. South Miami’s Chief Financial Officer, Alfredo Riverol, confirmed receiving the 2010, 2011, and 2012 annual audits.

“While LAZ conducted the annual audits, it was an oversight on our behalf that these audits were not provided to the city,” Macedo said. “In the future, we will provide our annual audit in a timely fashion to the city of South Miami.”

In 2009, a former LAZ enforcement specialist gave out parking tickets for nearly six months, without having being certified to do so.

Macedo said “no further action was required” once the complaint was addressed.

Another former employee accused the company of waiving parking tickets for “well-connected individuals,” that same year. The Connecticut-based company denied that allegation.

LAZ began its relationship with South Miami in the summer of 2006. The company has 7,300 employees in 24 states and 240 cities and maintains an annual revenue of $575 million. The company has been in business for 31 years and maintains more than 725,000 parking spaces nationally.

LAZ operates 1,375 parking spaces in South Miami.

South Miami had parking revenue of almost $2.2 million in the 2012-13 budget year, and is expected to bring in at least $2.3 million this year.

“This is primarily a financial issue we are evaluating,” Alexander said. “I can guarantee you we are going to hold them to a higher standard than previous administrations.”