A split Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority voted 3-2 Dec. 6 at a special meeting to try to repair a business relationship face-to-face rather than face a possible lawsuit.
The GIBA Board spent more than two hours last Thursday discussing how best to handle the appeal from GLF Construction of Miami whose $17.9 million low bid was one of five rejected Oct. 31 despite meeting all pre-qualifications.
A public hearing was set for GLF to air its concerns face-to-face to GIBA at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Power House on Boca Grande. GLF was to be notified of the opportunity by letter from GIBA.
Attorney Susan Churuti of the law firm Bryant Miller Olive of Tampa
"I don't have any problem allowing GLF to come before us to plead their case," said GIBA Board Chairman David Hayes.
The Miami firm has appealed the bid rejection and implied in a Nov. 16 letter of protest it could file a lawsuit to contest the decision. In response, GIBA hired counsel to represent its interest in any possible litigation arising from the rejection.
Ira Libanoff, GLF counsel, said the company will reserve any further comment until after receiving the letter from GIBA inviting a face-to-face discussion.
Photo credit: Terry O'Connor
Ira Libanoff, GLF counsel,
The GIBA Board voted 4-0 Oct. 31 to reject all five bids received ranging from $17.9 million to $24.2 million. Rejected Swing Bridge construction bids in order of lowest to highest:
GLF Construction Corp. of Miami, $17,874,503;
Orion Marine Construction of Tampa, $18,755,840;
Superior Construction Co. of Gary, Ind., $20,069,044;
American Bridge Co. of Tampa District, $20,402,701.90; and
PCL Construction of Denver, $24,234,334.
Bid totals do not include the required $2 million contingency fund.
Attorney Susan Churuti of the law firm Bryant Miller Olive of Tampa, the largest bond counsel firm in Florida, said GIBA had done nothing illegal in its bid decision.
"Having looked at the bid document, I feel you are on very firm ground," Churuti said at the special meeting. "You have not created property rights so Florida law is on your side. You're in a relatively good position."
GLF will have to prove GIBA acted arbitrarily, illegally, dishonestly or fraudulently to prevail in court case, Churuti said.
If GIBA had taken the apparent low bid of $17.9 million by GLF Construction Corp. of Miami, overall construction costs for the three bridges would have totaled a projected $32.2 million, well under the initial estimated $40 million costs.
GIBA will now wait to issue a request for proposal for the Swing Bridge until it has received the final design.
The GIBA Board also took public criticism from Boca Grande residents unhappy the low bid was not accepted.
William Holmberg, GIBA Finance Committee chairman, cautioned that failing to accept the lowest bid in hand might mean the next round comes in higher in light of construction demand certain to follow Hurricane Sandy. Materials prices, wages and worker availability all could be less favorable to GIBA in four months, he said.
In other action:
GIBA's State Infrastructure Bank loan application still awaits Gov. Rock Scott's approval.
The GIBA Board has paid $7.1 million of the $10.6 million of fixed bridge debt to date by debt financing and $3.5 million in cash.
Swing Bridge design deadlines have been adjusted to March 14 for completion and April 18 for GIBA Board approval. The move will not affect construction completion dates.