The City’s in-house maintenance of the pedestrian mall has long been under fire and plans to privatize the service spans back over a year.
A proposal by the administration to enter into negotiations for a no-bid contract to UIA Management LLC did not receive the needed 5/7th vote to bypass sending it out to bid. The vote ended in a 4-3 split with Michael Gongora, Deede Weithorn, and Jonah Wolfson voting against it.
A Request For Bid was then passed.
Commissioner Michael Gongora said approving the no-bid deal might ring as seedy to some residents.
“This concerns me because it gives people the impression that it is a back room deal,” Gongora said.
If it was successful the vote would have allowed the administration to enter into negotiations with UIA Management who currently maintains the 1100 block of Lincoln Road. It has been in their control ever since Developer Robert Wennett, who leads UIA, helped developed 1111 Lincoln Road’s parking and retail space. Under the agreement between the City and UIA, the scope of maintenance can expand to other sections of Lincoln Road.
Wennett started the meeting with gloom by stating that “Lincoln Road is no longer competitive with surrounding markets,” but optimistic that UIA’s track record would offer salvation to the beloved pedestrian mall. As support waned he pleaded for a one year trial of the service, and finally descended to understandable frustration of the time that had been spent crafting the deal.
“We have wasted 18 months,” he said.
The outsourcing of the mall maintenance was originally withdrawn from a July 2011 meeting among concerns from property owners. Since then UIA has built a collection of support from property owners.
Lincoln Road property owner Jonathan Fryd came to the defense of Wennett.
“He has a track record,” Fryd told the commission. “I have nothing to gain, but to see the street cleaner.“
Fryd is a well known developer who recently came under fire from preservationists after he called for the elimination of the Miami Design Preservation League, and the Dade Heritage Trust from the city’s Historical Preservation Board. Some believed his actions were in retaliation after the HPB was not accommodating enough to the plan by APPLE to build it’s new headquarters on a historically protected property Fryd had an interest in. Fryd did not return calls from the SunPost for comment on that issue.
The UIA deal had plenty of detractors as well. The Herald’s David Smiley reported that a union sponsored television ad ran on Atlantic Broadband critical of City Manager Jorge Gonzalez and Wennett.
Gonzalez told the commission that the city would receive “a better level of service for the same amount of the money.” He said there was a greater flexibility with outsourced labor when there isn’t a need to comply with city’s ordinances and collective bargaining aggreements.
The City Manager also said that no employee currently working on Lincoln Road would have lost their jobs, they would simply be moved to work on a different need of the city.
The only thing that wasn’t up for debate was that the quality of the mall’s maintenance needed to improve.
Commissioner Jorge Exposito, like many before him called Lincoln Road “a jewel,” while echoing the sentiment that it was losing ground to other destinations like Mary Brickell Village.
But with all the gloomy talk Gonzalez tried to keep it all in perspective:
“The truth of the matter is that Lincoln Road is a hugely successful.,” he said. “We should not walk away from here thinking it’s , as someone put it, Beirut.”