News: North Bay Village Blindsided by a $118,000 Loss in Grant Money; Moves Along with Improvement Project Anyway

The North Bay Village Commission started the new year swallowing a bitter and expensive pill.

The administration lost $118,000 in grant money for the J. F. Kennedy Causeway improvement project by failing to file documents, and still, they have to go on with the project to avoid possible lawsuits and increasing prices.

With their hands tied at their January 8thmeeting, Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with Valleycrest Landscape Development, Inc., and Southeast Underground Utilities Corp., for work previously done, and for the completion of the improvements project in the sum of $410,000.

Of that amount $192, 392.00 came out of the Transportation Fund (CITT Fund) to cover the loss in federal grant money.

 That $118,000 was lost when village administration failed to send sufficient documentation on the causeway project, and the Federal Transit Administration stripped NBV of the grant money. According to City Manager Dennis Kelly, the project dates back to two previous city managers when the documents were first asked for.

“Assumption was that it was solved,” said Kelly at the meeting “we had no indication from previous managers or finance directors how that was being handled until we go the notice.”

Kelly said his administration, which is a year old, had sent in a package that he thought was sufficient.

Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps was noticeably frustrated on the dais.

“You don’t follow up on the work you submitted?” asked the mayor.

The city manager said he was not given any indication that the package was insufficient until he received the notice of the cut funds.

“We can go to Bob Pushkin or Bob Daniels,” said Kelly. “Unfortunately we got hit under my watch.”

The notice came before Thanksgiving, around November 20th, but the Commission wasn’t told officially until January 7th, a day before the commission meeting.

Commissioner Richard Chervony asked why the commission was not made aware of this earlier.

To which Kelly responded that he was trying to track down concrete information, and it was hard to get a hold of the officials at the Florida Department of Transportation, who handle the federal money locally, during the holidays.

Simultaneously the commission had to approve the completion of the project on the spot, digging into the village’s Transportation Fund, or risk losing the savings struck up by a legal settlement associated with the long-stalled project.

The original company hired by the NBV, M. Villa, had subcontracted to work out to other companies before it defaulted. Many of those came to the village for payment on work done. NBV’s legal department negotiated a settlement that had to be decided by the January 8th meeting or it was essentially off.

With the agreement passed, the work will include the finishing the causeway and some work on Paul Vogel Park.

The administration said it would work with FDOT to either get back the money or find it through another avenue. The fruits of that search may take months.

“$118,000 is a large ball to drop,” said Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez

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