Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Toppino's parking lot bid on board agenda

Local contractor Charley Toppino Sons, Inc. may win approval to build a parking lot at Horace O'Bryant School at this morning's School Board meeting in Key West.

"We had three competitive bids for the lot," said Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter. "The Toppino's bid was the lowest, and they're able to complete the project before the end of September. [Toppino's] can do it cheaper, and sooner than anticipated, which is good news on both fronts."

Porter's selection of Toppino was made Monday, with a quoted contract value of $331,997.

School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths on Monday bemoaned the fact that Coastal Construction, which built the school itself, did not express an interest in finishing up the last piece of the puzzle.

"I am confident our policies were followed with respect to all bid awards," Griffiths said. "It is a shame that Coastal Construction did not submit a bid, as they were already stationed on site. They may have been the low bid."

That company had expressed interest in finishing the lot, which needed to be modified from its original design, but later threw in the towel on the project, amidst financial probing from District 3 board member Ed Davidson. At one point, Coastal's unofficial bid offer for the lot was in excess of $700,000.

On Monday, Davidson said the lower Toppino bid proved his point.

"I think it totally dispels the myth that Coastal Construction has been trying to sell to the community that they're Boy Scouts doing us a bunch of favors on HOB," Davidson said. "Remember, a few weeks ago they offered to build the parking lot for us for close to $800,000. They would have turned around and hired the same or similar subcontractors, and charged the taxpayers and the school system a near $500,000 markup. It's pretty simple math. Their charm offensive was short on the charm and long on the offensive, and their outrageous offer shows their true colors."

The other two bidders were Douglas N. Higgins, Inc., of Key West, and DL Porter, of Sarasota, Fla.

Also at today's meeting, board members will vote on whether to authorize Interim Director of Finance Jim Drake to advertise notice of the public budget hearings, tentatively scheduled for July 30, Aug. 27, and Sept. 3, a necessary part of the budgeting process. On Sept. 3, board members will vote on the final budget.

At present, Drake proposes spending $83.4 million on revenues of $84.3 million, compared to expenses of $79.5 million, for the 2013-14 budget, which runs through June 30.

The increased revenues raise the possibility that the teaching members of the United Teachers of Monroe may finally see some financial relief, following years of no raises and furloughs, which board members such as Davidson, Griffiths, and District 4 member John Dick, have simply referred to as "pay cuts." All board members have been vocal in recent months about the need to offer a better deal to educators as soon as finances permit.

"We're still in the process of closing out the books on 2012-13," said Drake. "And negotiations between the district and UTM are still taking place. What we do will depend on what gets negotiated. The bargaining will have an impact on everybody else."

Superintendent Porter was optimistic that the final budget would be well-received.

"The ability to present a balanced budget that does not include budget cuts, given where we've been, is a positive statement about the district, going into the school year."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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