After failing to gain a decisive vote to award the low bidder the Swing Bridge project at their first special board meeting five weeks ago, Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Commissioners Gay Darsie and George Baker swayed two commissioners to their side Tuesday at the Boca Grande Community Center in their second special meeting.
The result: A $17.9 million bid by GLF Construction of Miami to build the Swing Bridge was accepted by the GIBA Board after it had been rejected earlier.
"It was the only obvious answer," Darsie said. "It was obvious back in December."
George Baker, GIBA Board member, made the motion to award GLF Construction of Miami the the Swing Bridge project.
A split GIBA Board voted 3-2 Dec. 6 at a special meeting to ask GLF to this special meeting after a Baker-Darsie motion to award the bid to GLF failed.
"I'm pleased," Baker said. "I think we're back on the right track."
Baker's motion Tuesday to accept the GLF bid passed 4-1 with only GIBA Chairman David Hayes dissenting. It was a nearly complete reversal of the 4-0 GIBA Board vote Nov. 2 to reject all five bids received, which Hayes championed.
GIBA vote reversal
The GIBA Board voted 4-0 Nov. 2 to reject all five bids received ranging from $17.9 million to $24.2 million. GIBA reversed itself 4-1 Tuesday, Jan. 15, to award the bid to low bidder GLF Construction of Miami
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.
What: Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Audit Committee
When: 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23
Why: GIBA contract reviews
Where: GIBA admin building
"I don't feel any more comfortable with this than I did before," Hayes told a seven-man GLF contingent that spent an hour pleading their case. "Congratulations."
GIBA Commissioner Ginger Watkins cast the deciding vote in a reversal from her Dec. 6 vote. GIBA Commissioner Lee Major also changed his December ballot.
"I just read a lot of documents," Watkins said as to the reason she backed GLF this time.
After being outvoted by the entire GIBA Board on a key issue, Hayes said he would let the body decide at its Feb. 20 meeting if he was going to serve a second term as chairman. The board could also turn to Watkins or Major.
A GLF letter dated Nov. 16, 2012, asked GIBA to award it the contract as low bidder, which spurred this special meeting.
"Should GIBA not reverse its decision, GLF would be left with no other option other than to consider all of its available legal remedies, including a suit for damages, bid preparation costs and attorney fees," read a letter sent by Ira Libanoff, GLF counsel from the law firm Ferencik Libanoff Brandt Bustamante and Williams of Fort Lauderdale.
GIBA also hired counsel for any possible litigation arising from the bid rejection. Attorney Susan Churuti of the law firm Bryant Miller Olive of Tampa, the largest bond counsel firm in Florida, did not have to say a word at Tuesday's meeting.
The bid award was not prompted because GLF had a particularly strong case, Churuti said. GLF would have had to prove GIBA acted arbitrarily, illegally, dishonestly or fraudulently to prevail, Churuti said.
GLF is no longer hinting at lawsuits but Hayes is still smarting from by intimations made in the GLF letter.
"I didn't appreciate that," Hayes said. "Those were some pretty harsh comments."
Hayes had said waiting until Swing Bridge designs are complete, rather than awarding the bid at 75 percent completion, would make it less likely the winning contractor would dip into the $2 million contingency fund during construction and thus save Gasparilla Island taxpayers money. GLF declined to say it would not use money from the contingency fund during Tuesday's hearing.
The accepted bid of $17.9 million means overall construction costs for the three bridges now total a projected $32.2 million, well under the initial $40 million estimate.