Bunnell Commission, With 14 Jobs in Jeopardy, Calls Emergency Meeting for Today
FlaglerLive | November 2, 2011
For the past six years, the Florida Department of Transportation has contracted with Bunnell government for road maintenance in DOT’s local district. The current contract is valued at $1.3 million and represents 14 jobs on the city’s payroll. It also represents the equivalent of a third of the city’s general fund.
Now Bunnell may be on the verge of losing it all, a consequence of the state’s privatization drive.
The city commission has called an emergency meeting for tonight at 6:30 p.m. to deal with the contract and discuss an injunction against the state.
Monday is Bunnell’s deadline to bid on the contract. What precipitated the emergency meeting is a requirement–which was either revealed late to Bunnell from the state, or that Bunnell itself was late in discovering–that the city buy two performance bonds, one valued at about $11,000, the other, a recurring, annual bond, valued at $30,000. Tonight’s meeting is designed to give the administration authority to spend the money for the bonds. That money is not in any pre-approved budget. Performance bonds, which can take a few weeks to buy, have to be secured ahead of a bid being put in. It’s not clear how Bunnell will have time, despite tonight’s action, to secure the bonds in time for the bid.
That brings up tonight’s other discussion item: “The city is evaluating whether or not it makes sense to get an injunction and more importantly, when to seek that injunction,” before or after the bid is awarded, City Attorney Sid Nowell said. The reason: the state is making explicit its objections to Bunnell even submitting a bid. “Initially we were told we were not allowed to bid because we were a public entity, we were going to be precluded,” Nowell said. But nowhere in state law is such an exclusion permissible. “Then they backed up and said OK, you can bid, but we’re not going to guarantee that we’re going to accept your bid, or consider your bid, is the term that was used.”
The city has been disallowed from accessing pre-bid data through the state’s bidding website. All the information it has gathered had to be acquired through public record requests. Nowell, who has been preparing a legal strategy with Dennis Bayer and Jim Manfre, his legal team, said he was leaning toward recommending against enjoining the state before the bid process is complete, and instead file a bid protest afterward, should Bunnell continue to be sidelined. (Bayer will be sitting in at this evening’s meeting, as Nowell, who’s had a loss in his family, is in Tennessee.)
Until this year, the state has had a memorandum of understanding with Bunnell to keep the contract. This year, Gov. Rick Scott is requiring all state-issued contracts to be reviewed and put out to bid. In essence, Bunnell is having to compete with others to keep the contract. Some 24 companies are bidding for the contract, which has a maximum value of $1.9 million.
Scott has made no secret of his distaste for government jobs if he can get them replaced by private-industry jobs. He’s under immense pressure to make good on his promise, so far nowhere near kept, to produce 700,000 private-sector jobs in seven years over and above the 1 million jobs that would normally be created in a moderate-growth economy. Just 71,000 jobs were created overall between January and October. Shifting such contracts as Bunnell’s from government to private industry would, by Scott’s calculations, add to the private sector job rolls, even though Bunnell itself would be losing the jobs.
Should Bunnell lose the contract it would result in a loss of jobs won’t severely impact the running of the city, Bunnell manager Armando Martinez said. “We’ve been slowly preparing for it,” he said.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Government Services Building in Bunnell.