Miami taxpayers should save more than $124,000 on a promenade and walkway at Museum Park after a contentious battle between a contractor that thought it was local and another with headquarters in Illinois.
Berger Singerman partner Javier Vazquez successfully helped FHP Tectonics Corp., a regional office of Chicago-based F.H. Paschen, protest a bid awarded to South Miami-based Munilla Construction Management LLC, which also has an office in Miami.
FHP was the lowest of five bidders in the initial round in August, but MCM, the fourth-lowest bidder, maintained it qualified under city preference rules as a local company for a second round of bidding because its price was within 15 percent of the one submitted by the outside company. Both MCM and FHP were asked to submit best and final offers.
MCM came in $22,830 below FHP’s revised bid to win the $9.4 million contract in October.
But then FHP’s point person in South Florida drove past his rival’s Miami office and was "very, very offended" to see little or no business being conducted there, Vazquez said.
"MCM should never have had a second crack at the apple in the first place," he said.
Vazquez and FHP, which has worked on several parks in greater Miami, lodged a formal protest with the city’s procurement office, which determined Munilla Construction’s office at 1429 SW First St. had the appropriate city business tax receipt for the location but not a valid Miami-Dade County business tax receipt.
County property records list the building’s owner as 1429 LLC, whose partners are three of the six Munilla brothers who lead MCM.
"We never saw any evidence of Munilla or MCM business at that location," Vazquez said. "The fact that it’s owned by a principal of the company does not make it part of the business."
The South Miami office of MCM, which has worked at Miami International Airport and been part of the Miami-Dade community for 30 years, did not return a call for comment by deadline.
Vazquez called procurement "a very technical business" and said many companies lose jobs because of procedural flaws in their bid proposals.
Mark Spanioli, director of Miami’s capital improvements program, asked city commissioners to rescind the MCM award in January, sparking a spirited discussion of what makes a local company local.
"I think no one really is disputing that this is a local firm," Commissioner Frank Carollo said at the meeting. "Maybe not by definitions of what the code said, but the bottom line is they are a local firm. We all know them,"
Commissioners agreed to tweak the local preference ordinance.
"What we don’t want this to become is an issue where, you know, it’s let’s find hypertechnical ways to disqualify people," Commissioner Francis Suarez said.
But commissioners feared not awarding the bid to FHP would mean the Miami Science Museum and the Pérez Art Museum Miami would open before the promenade and walkway were finished at the former Bicentennial Park.
In the end they approved rescinding the MCM bid, awarding the work to FHP and asking the city staff to recommend changes to the definition of "local" businesses. FHP meanwhile agreed to complete the project at MCM’s best price.
The contractor will build 2,850 feet of walkway averaging 30 feet in width along Biscayne Bay and 960 feet of walkway with an average width of 90 feet along the park’s northern boundary next to the proposed museums. Both areas will be planted with palms, other trees, shrubs and sod.