County manager wants to yank authority from Miami International, transit and public works departments
By Paola Iuspa
Miami-Dade's county manager wants to centralize purchasing for transportation, aviation and public works departments in the procurement division.
He also wants to bring those departments' communications, information technology and construction management decisions under one umbrella.
Aviation, transit and public works would lose independence in awarding contracts, promotions, designing computer systems and hiring architects and engineers for public projects.
The proposal still must go to county subcommittees and then the full commission, said Bill Johnson, assistant county manager.
The board could vote on it in January, said Juan Mendieta, county communications director.
The central Department of Procurement Management now buys services and goods and awards contracts for 42 other departments, Mr. Mendieta said.
"The manager wants to consolidate operations across the board," he said.
Companies are often invited to submit proposals for contracts. Currently, that calls for each of these three departments to advertise the work and receive responses. Once a company is selected, the county commission OKs the vendor and awards the contract.
Manager Steve Shiver proposes the procurement division handle it all.
"That way, the soliciting process would be the same for all the departments," Mr. Johnson said.
The three divisions would still create vendor specifications, contract terms and job descriptions for legal documents, known as requests for proposals, Mr. Johnson said.
The proposed procurement-related changes have been analyzed, said Danny Alvarez, until recently transit director and now executive director of the new Office of Public Transportation Management.
Under Mr. Shiver's plan, the transit office would only contract for services that require a bidding process.
When departments go to bid, the firm that meets the minimum requirements and offers either the lowest bid or best financial terms wins. But vendors win requests for proposal when they meet the qualifications and offer the best financial deal.
"Our main concern is customer service," Mr. Alvarez said.
One former lobbyist at Miami International who said he was interested in running retail concessions there said the proposal would be beneficial.
Miami lawyer and radio station owner Chris Korge said the aviation department's requests for proposals are often poorly written and don't make economic sense, causing the entire process to be reinitiated.
Aviation Director Angela Gittens said Tuesday she was not aware that Mr. Shiver was moving forward to centralize solicitation for airport food and retail concessions and said she thought he had withdrawn the plan in September.
She said her department is already concerned with the recent centralization of airport communications.
When airport officials need to speak to the public, they must first contact Mr. Mendieta, she said, and he decides who can release information and when.
"It is the only airport in the US," she said, "in which communications is not handled in the aviation department."