The State Statue that allows the City to bypass the competitive bidding process is not working for St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
So far, it has gone unnoticed that the engineering contractor/consultant selection process that resulted in the current St. Pete sewage mess was the same flawed process used to select the New Pier over the public's choice. See my Post The Pier Park Decision An Epilog.
Once the Kriseman Administration put forth the process in Title XIX Chapter 287.055 and Council agreed to letting the Administration set up the selection committee the die was cast. The head of the committee was preset by the Statute and the outcome was almost completely assured; the inverted pyramid was coming down.
Then Public Works Administrator, Mike Connors, who by statute was in charge during the process and knew it well drove the selection committee to his, and the Kriseman administrations desired out come for the New Pier.
This Statute when properly administered and executed is designed to reduce time, cost, and produce desired outcomes.
It is also subject to significant abuse as we saw in the Pier selection process and now in the ongoing St. Petersburg sewage crisis. The process is easily manipulated to favor certain contractors and consultants and places an inordinate amount of unchecked power at the hands of the administrator of the statute.
As the demolition of the Pier has dragged on for almost eight months beyond schedule, and the actual plans for the new Pier Park shrink, flaws of the process that got the City to this point will begin to show up.
The Kriseman administration is sending some muted signals that things are in trouble as they begin casting about looking for sources of revenue to provide amenities that were in the original design.
Daniel Ruth has an interesting opinion piece in The Tampa Bay Times: Daniel Ruth: Imagining a Trump for St. Petersburg's Pier.
Amy Foster, City Council Chairperson, and the rest of City Council would be well advised to cast the net of their independent review to include the total application of Title XIX Chapter 287.055 since that is the process that will be used for the Police Complex, subsequent Pier contractors and equipment selections and all contracts related to the sewage crisis.
While the official title of the Statute is "Procurement of Personal Property and Services" in Section 1, the short title is "Consultants Competitive Negotiation Act" or CCNA, which is very misleading as the process is used for many things other than picking consultants.
In fact, City Council should begin by asking in the last five years what Services and Personal Property have been acquired using Chapter 287 Procurement of Personal Property and Services, who made the decisions, what contractor and vendors were selected.
When I was with the City, the Engineering Department would constantly push this Statue as the way to acquire services, contractors and equipment. The objective was to take the procurement away from purchasing and the competitive bid process. If as a department manager or director, you agreed, which I rarely did, the internal engineering fees ate up any savings and the project was usually over budget and behind schedule.
City Council has taken a good step in reducing the level of required approvals by City Council from $100,000 to $50,000, but it will not help because consulting contacts will simply come in at $49,995, and the scopes will become smaller resulting in more but smaller awards and lots of change orders.
Without stringent controls and over site, the CCNA process as it is will morph into a different form.
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