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Pinellas commissioners decide to go with second-ranked construction company to build new clinic

In an unusual move Tuesday, the Pinellas County Commission decided to enter contract negotiations for a major construction job with the company that came in second, bypassing the business that scored highest on its evaluation.

In all, Pinellas received 12 bids from companies eager to win a $4 million contract to build a medical clinic for the poor and the homeless. Funded by a federal grant, the clinic is slated to open in 2015.

From those bids, a review committee made up of five county employees selected the top three, giving the first slot to Peter R. Brown Construction, which was recently acquired by a South Florida company. It is the same company that recently won a $9 million contract to build a county parking garage.

In the No. 2 position by about a dozen points was Clearwater-based Creative Contractors. Its CEO, Alan Bomstein, is well-known to commissioners and has donated to many of their past political campaigns, giving about $1,700 in the 2012 election cycle, and the same amount in 2010. Bomstein could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In a 4-3 vote, the commission rejected the committee's number one pick and directed its staff to negotiate a contract with Creative Contractors. Explaining their reasoning, several board members said their vote was an attempt to "spread the work around," and ensure that the same company is not winning all of the county's largest contracts.

"That parking garage is a big project, $9 million," said Commissioner Susan Latvala. "And I'm just not comfortable giving this large a project to them on top of that when there are other businesses, just as qualified, who could do the work."

She was joined by commissioners Janet Long, Karen Seel and John Morroni. Commissioners Ken Welch, Charlie Justice, and Roche voted against the company's selection.

"I think this is a very good firm, I think everybody knows Creative Contracting, but the process matters," said Welch, adding that if the board wanted to give weight to local businesses, it should reject all bids, amend its criteria, and solicit new proposals.

Stormwater fee wins approval

Pinellas County commissioners approved a new surface water fee Tuesday that will appear on unincorporated residents' tax bills for the first time later this year. Though the board will not set rates until September, it voted 6-1 to charge residents a fee based on how much of their business or residential property is not permeable. The money will be used to clean up county lakes and creeks, a majority of which are considered polluted, and to improve drainage to prevent flooding. Pinellas officials have proposed charging residents $9.67 a month for each 2,339 square feet of property that is covered by a house, or another structure such as a garage, that would prevent the ground from absorbing rainfall. Homes that are less than 1,576 square feet would be categorized as small, and their owners charged about $70 a year. Homes in the range of 1,576 to 4,367 square feet would be considered "medium," and their owners would pay about $116 a year. About 90 percent of unincorporated residents fall into those two categories, according to county officials. People with large properties (between 4,368 and 10,000 square feet) could pay as much as $267 annually. Many cities in Pinellas already charge surface water fees.

This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The county is proposing to charge residents a fee for each 2,339 square feet of impermeable property.

Pinellas commissioners decide to go with second-ranked construction company to build new clinic 08/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:21pm]
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