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Brooksville picks consultant to bid on community grants

The grants could be worth up to $600,000 and would help with downtown revitalization and repairing sewer lines.

The Brooksville City Council on Monday picked consultant Angie Brewer _ who unsuccessfully tried to win two federal grants for the city last year _ to try again.

The two Community Development Block Grants would each be worth about $600,000. The city has the best chance of being chosen for a grant that would allow it to refurbish its downtown business district; the other would allow it to replace ancient sewer lines.

As happened last year, the selection generated controversy, with City Council member Joe Johnston saying council member Ernie Wever had apparently low-balled one of Brewer's competitors, CRA Consulting, when council members ranked the firms. CRA successfully won the city two previous federal grants totalling about $1.2-million.

"You know, I hate to say it, but it does look that way," Johnston said.

The city divided the job in two parts. One part of the job is to apply for the grant; the other is to manage the work if the city receives the money. Wever gave CRA a zero out of a possible score of 100 for both sections of the job, while scoring Angie Brewer & Associates of Bradenton at 92 for the first phase of the work and 94 for the second.

Though Wever did not return a telephone call to his house Tuesday, he said at Monday's meeting that CRA had failed to properly fill out documents required of companies bidding for city projects.

Deputy City Clerk Jennifer Battista said several of the companies had made such errors in the forms. This paperwork is a routine part of the application process, Battista said; one of the forms, for example, states that the company is a drug-free workplace.

"A couple of the companies had some minor problems filling out the forms," she said.

The city allowed the companies five days to fax corrected copies and asked them to provide the original document later. CRA complied with this request, Battista said.

Also, Johnston said, council member Richard Lewis gave Brewer a perfect score of 100.

"I didn't know anyone could be perfect," Johnston said.

Lewis said he gave Brewer the score because of its history working with other cities. Last year, Brewer's application was affiliated with Coastal Engineering Associates Inc. This year, it applied independently.

In 1999, CRA complained to the state Department of Community Affairs about the way the city chose Brewer and Coastal. The council's rating had their joint application tied with CRA. The council then voted to award the job to Coastal and Brewer. The department recommended that the city solicit new bids and change the way it chooses firms. It did both, with the main alteration in the selection process that the staff does not rank firms.

Johnston and Vice Mayor Pat Brayton selected another firm, Fred Fox Enterprises, as the most qualified.

Lewis said he did not think Brewer's failure to win a grant last year should be held against her. The city was all but excluded from the sewer grant because it had previously received two of them, a DCA representative said last year.

Generally, cities win downtown development grants by demonstrating a far-reaching effort to improve downtowns; they cannot seem dependent on grant money as a sole solution, the Department of Community Affairs said.

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