ISLAMORADA -- Engineering firm AECOM plans to formally protest the Village Council's recent move to begin sewer system negotiations with Reynolds Water Islamorada.
The company, which saw its own negotiations with the village over a proposed $94.5 million sewer system terminated on July 5, informed the village of its intent in a July 11 letter. AECOM's actions are also supported by its partner in the sewer bid, Veolia Water North America, wrote AECOM's attorney Patrick Douglas.
Reynolds, Douglas wrote, was not a licensed contractor in Florida when it bid on the wastewater project, nor had it obtained a license as of July 5. Therefore, the company is not an ineligible bidder for the job.
"Under Florida law, R[eynolds] W[ater] I[slamorada] may not enter into an enforceable contract," Douglas wrote.
AECOM's move is the latest salvo in the Islamorada sewer saga, which took a bizarre turn late last month after Veolia/AECOM changed language in two contract appendices that had been submitted to them signed by Islamorada Mayor Michael Reckwerdt. Among the issues dealt with in those appendices was insurance requirements.
Company representative David Herer signed off on the contract, with the changes unmarked, before it was returned to the village.
The move caused the Village Council to deem the contract invalid and to vote to commence negotiations with Reynolds, instead. Veolia/AECOM officials have said the matter was the result of a communication breakdown and not a willful attempt to subvert the contract.
In a brief interview last week, Norm Anderson, who was to have been AECOM's manager for the Islamorada sewer project, described the protest as an attempt to assist the village, which stands to lose a $20 million state sewer grant if it hasn't entered into a binding contract by the end of August.
"The purpose and intent of our protest was to help and protect the village's interests," he said.
Village Manager Ed Koconis declined to comment on the planned protest last week. Wes Self, who has headed the Reynolds Water effort to win the village contract, did not return Free Press phone calls on the topic.
As of last Friday, the Florida Division of Business and Profession Regulation website confirmed that Reynolds Water Islamorada had no general contractor's license.
Islamorada Water LLC, which is the entity that the Veolia/AECOM team established for the village sewer contract, also did not have general contractor's license until June 21, some six months after the Village Council authorized the commencement of contract negotiations with the firm.
In an interview last Friday, company spokesman Paul Bickard said the company was nevertheless eligible under a general contractor's license held by Veolia. That license became active in July 2007, the state DBPR website shows.
"The bid that AECOM/Veolia submitted meets the licensing requirements," Bickard said.
In addition to his letter stating AECOM's protest plans, Douglas submitted a broad public records request to the village on July 11 on behalf of the engineering firm.
The letter asks for a slew of documents related to the village's yearlong procurement process for the wastewater project, as well as documents related to the council's decisions to terminate negotiations with Veolia/AECOM and to commence negotiations with Reynolds.
Village officials have repeatedly expressed concern that a legal battle with Veolia/AECOM could be in the offing.
Those concerns aside, however, the village and Reynolds did begin negotiations July 9. Both Koconis and Self described the session as productive. Additional sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, July 19 and 20.
The village's goal is to have preliminary terms of the deal negotiated by July 26, Koconis said, and to have the contract prepared by Aug. 21, ahead of the state-imposed Sept. 1 deadline for the $20 million grant.