BY BUDDY NEVINS
The Broward School Board has done it again: Allowed the same ol’ back room dealing and bad business practices that have plagued the schools for so long.
Here is the story:
Board members want voters to approve several hundred million dollars in new bonds as early as next year.
So in another move designed to win voters support, the School Board privatized a huge piece of the facilities department last week.
Privatization was supposed to look like the Board was finally cleaning house in the facilities division, which was criticized by a recent statewide Grand Jury for inefficiency and mismanagement.
Maybe the Board is ready to be trusted with several $100 million of new bond money.
Not so fast!
The deal isn’t what it seems.
First of all, the private company to replace the 40 fired workers has already been picked. Quietly. Out of the sunshine.
URS, an international firm that already has a similar contract to manage Orange County, Florida’s school contruction, has the contract in the bag. Board members were told this publicly last week.
Wait a minute.
Were competitive proposals from other firms taken? No.
Does anybody know what URS will charge?
“I don’t know the cost yet,” conceded Shelley Meloni, director of school construction.
Does anybody at the School Board remember URS’s problems at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport?
URS oversaw the airport ’s expansion from 1995 to 2007. Its contract climbed from $4.9 million in 2002 to $67 million in 2007.
The contract was amended eight times without new bids and the firm was hammered by a series of audits that alleged they mismanaged their job by failing to properly monitor contractors. According to my pal Scott Wyman, writing in the Sun-Sentinel:
“URS said it fixed the problems and assembled a team of high-powered lobbyists to press commissioners for a new deal.”
Commissioners didn’t bite. They gave the airport management to another firm in 2008.
And that’s the firm the School Board wants to hand a no-bid contract?
Once again, Board members Nora Rupert and Patti Good were the voices of reason. They were the only votes against this flim flam, which passed 7-2.
Both complained that they were being asked to vote on something without knowing the eventual cost.
Rupert also noted that the underlings were being dumped while the higher ups were keeping their jobs.
“If you are unhappy with the team, you don’t get rid of the third string quarterback,” Rupert said.
A greased contract to a firm that already had problems at the airport. Plunging ahead without knowing the price tag. Firing the little guys, while leaving the big guys in place.
Doesn’t sound like a group I want to trust with millions more.
Does it to you?