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St. Petersburg scuttles second contract with builder

ST. PETERSBURG — Three months after the St. Petersburg Times reported that a Tampa company defaulted on a business loan this summer, city officials now plan to scrap plans to hire the firm for another project.

On Thursday, the City Council is scheduled to vote on canceling a $124,000 contract it awarded Pro-Fit Development to construct a 755-square-foot concrete block public restroom next to the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. The council awarded the contract to the firm on July 15.

But the company's bond insurance that guaranteed the completion of the project didn't meet requirements, said Louis Moore, the city's director of purchasing and materials management. The company wasn't on a U.S. Treasury Department list of acceptable insurers, nor was it rated, Moore said.

The council will vote Thursday to approve the second-lowest bidder on the job, Bayside Building Services Inc. of Clearwater. It bid $170,000. In addition to the restrooms, the project will include a 200-square-foot exhibit display area, storage and a front canopy to mimic a 1920s-era gas station.

It's the second time the city has canceled a contract with Pro-Fit. In August, the City Council was set to approve a $114,000 contract before the Times reported that the firm and its president, Terrance Bradford, had defaulted on a business loan in July and was ordered to pay JPMorgan Chase Bank $50,000. City officials pulled the contract from the Aug. 5 meeting. At the time, officials said they would re-evaluate the bids on the project, which was to build a three-bedroom house on 16th Avenue S as part of an emergency program to provide assistance to neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosures.

But later, officials concluded they didn't have time to award the contract and meet a Sept. 3 federal deadline to dedicate the money. So the money was earmarked for another project, said Joshua Johnson, the city's director of housing and community development.

Bradford, who couldn't be reached, said in an August e-mail to city officials that his company could guarantee the work. "We are a very reputable company and have never failed to complete a project since the inception of the company and we also maintain open lines of credit with our vendors, trades and currently have a $3 million bonding line," Bradford wrote.

Yet it was the firm's inability to provide adequate guarantee of insurance that nixed the other contract with the city. "A surety bond protects the city," Moore said. "The city did some checking, and we just weren't sure about the qualifications of (Pro-Fit's) surety bond."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 983-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg scuttles second contract with builder 11/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 8:01pm]
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