By Eric Kalis
Miami commissioners have given a South Florida developer an additional $15 million for concurrent projects to satisfy a request that raised some eyebrows on the dais.
The commission, by a 4-1 vote last week, accepted the adjustment to the city's no-bid contract with James Pirtle Construction Co. to build Jose Marti Gymnasium at 434 SW Third Ave. and the Little Haiti Park Cultural Center at 5925-27 NW Second Ave.
The contract for Jose Marti Gymnasium increases $6.4 million to $10.4 million, while the cultural center deal jumps $8.9 million to about $14 million.
Linda Haskins was the only commissioner to vote against the change order, citing concerns that the contracts for both projects were negotiated without a bid in January by former city manager Joe Arriola. The capital improvement program's procurement code allows projects to be negotiated without a bid on an emergency basis.
Joe Lester, project manager for Pirtle Construction, said the company needs more money because of a substantial increase in the cost of materials since the deal was reached. The company plans to break ground on the projects by month's end and is awaiting building permits, he said.
Commissioner Joe Sanchez said he is concerned that the cost increase might create an "awkward situation" for project supporters and asked City Manager Pete Hernandez to justify the new price. Mr. Hernandez said the reasons for the cost increase were valid but Mr. Arriola did not adequately convey the terms of the contract to the commission. The contract gave the developer flexibility to request more money through change orders.
"The process was wrong from the beginning," Mr. Hernandez said.