City Commission approves no-bid contract for project manager with 5-2 vote
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the May 4 Gainesville City Commission meeting, the commission voted 5-2, with Commissioners Desmon Duncan-Walker and Ed Book in dissent, to approve a no-bid two-year contract that would pay CHW to provide the City with an embedded project manager for two years.
The contract was originally on the consent agenda, but after some members of the public sent emails to commissioners, it was moved to the regular agenda and taken up in the evening portion of the meeting.
Contract will pay up to $375,000 to CHW over two years
The City’s stated justification for waiving the usual competitive process for procurement is that the consulting firm CHW is on the City’s continuing engineering services contract, and CHW is currently working on the Eastside Health and Economic Development Initiative (EHEDI). According to the waiver, “additional projects are underway focusing on East Gainesville that require simultaneous planning with the EHEDI: 8th Avenue & Waldo Road, Cultural Arts Center, and the Power District Project.” The waiver concludes that CHW is “best suited to provide project management services to the City Manager’s Office for the aforementioned projects… A sole project manager with this breadth of experience will also ensure proper coordination with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.”
CHW’s proposal for the contract indicates that the City requested the proposal and that CHW would dedicate an embedded CHW Project Manager to the City Manager’s Office to “handle management of special projects.” The Project Manager will be assigned solely to Andrew Persons, Special Advisor to the City Manager, and will have oversight at CHW by Gerry Dedenbach. CHW also offered the services of several senior staff members to “review projects on a monthly basis for progress and direction” and to attend high-level meetings. The proposal specifically requires that “CHW would not be precluded from being on any future design teams that might design the improvements of City projects.” The proposal asks the City to commit to a minimum of six months with renewals for six-month periods after that, but the contract approved by the City Commission began on May 4 and extends to September 30, 2025, with an optional renewal of one year. Both parties may terminate the contract with 30 days’ notice.
Early Public Comment
Tana Silva spoke about the contract at the morning Early Public Comment session, reminding the commission that “at [the Joint Legislative Audit Committee meeting on February 23]… some of your fellow Progressive Democrats were shocked at the lack of trust, transparency, and accountability in Gainesville City Government… And this contract kind of shocks me, too.” She asked the commission to “get UF and developers out of City government,” saying that “embedding one chosen large developer’s agent into the City Manager’s Office is just wrong, and it gives undue access and advantage, as well as a poor appearance.” She was also concerned that the contract does not preclude CHW from winning contracts for projects it is managing; the contract also lets CHW redact information from public records by declaring “trade secrets.”
Silva further called on the commission to stop all no-bid deals and unsolicited proposals and to restore staff capacity to provide these services without the need to hire consultants.
At the afternoon Early Public Comment session, Chuck Ross said he agreed with Silva and he didn’t understand why staff couldn’t manage the projects.
“Building momentum to move some of our transformational projects”
When the agenda item was discussed during the evening session, City Manager Cynthia Curry said she brought the item forward after hearing some concern from commissioners “about building momentum to move some of our transformational projects and the ability of staff to really facilitate that.” She said that she and her staff “concluded that we really needed help to supplement all the staff that we already have in the area of project management.” She said her office did not put out an official solicitation for bids because “we’re trying to move it ahead of the curve. We really need to build some momentum, and so, therefore, we thought that we would move with a method of sole source, which is an option that we have in procurement. The preference would have been to go out for bid, but we really need to move these projects forward.” She said her staff saw “synergy” with CHW.
“There is nothing wrong with this. I know the preference is to put it out for bid, but in order for us to expedite, I believe this is the way to do it.” – City Manager Cynthia Curry
She continued, “There is nothing wrong with this. I know the preference is to put it out for bid, but in order for us to expedite, I believe this is the way to do it.” She said $375,000 is an “up to” amount, and “it’s not as if we’re going to spend the entire $375,000 that’s indicated here.”
Commissioner Casey Willits asked Curry to confirm that one reason for hiring the consultant is that “this is something that reaches across departments,” and she replied, “There are several skill sets involved here, from engineering, planning, transportation-oriented.”
Duncan-Walker said she understood “the need for expedience on this… I generally, off the top, don’t like no-bid contracts… because, for me, they take away an element of fairness. They give an unfair advantage, and in this particular situation, that’s one of the things that I’m kind of honing in on.” She said she had spoken to another company that does the same work and said they could do it cheaper. She said that going through a bid process would slow down the projects, but she had to weigh going through a fair process against doing it quickly. “I think for me, the greatest travesty in this is that we don’t have the staff to do this already.”
In response to a question from Duncan-Walker about whether there were plans to build up internal staff to be able to handle future projects, Curry said she believed the City would continue to need outside consultants for the foreseeable future. She added, “I’m not saying that sole source is the way. It’s the way for me right now because for 18 months–about a year of that–I’ve had these projects on the table. Move them, get them out, do something. Show some results. And so that’s why the method of sole source is on the table. I want to be able to push these projects out.”
Referring to the pressure from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to make drastic budget cuts, Curry said, “As much as we are facing in terms of adversity, we need some wins, and this is an opportunity for us to be able to get those wins quicker than it would be for me to hold for another three months or so, to go through a process to procure a service.” She said the City’s “new reality” might not be full-time staff but “some core staff with the ability to reach out… and get consultants to work and get things done.”
Duncan-Walker asked whether CHW would get “access… to information or to us as commissioners” that might be “excessive or unfair.” Curry responded, “I didn’t look at it that way… but to a degree it’s an advantage.” She said CHW was chosen “because of their experience.”
“I don’t want to ever seem like we’re playing favorites. And I don’t want to ever be accused of cronyism… because of appearances.” – Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker
Duncan-Walker responded that there are other firms that have experience and “there are other firms that deserve opportunities… I don’t want to ever seem like we’re playing favorites. And I don’t want to ever be accused of cronyism… because of appearances.” She specifically mentioned EDA as another firm that could do the work.
“I think we have to be bold here and step forward and try to bring these projects together… I think that CHW can do that. I don’t have a problem with selecting them at this point because I know that they have the expertise.” – Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said she had requested at a recent General Policy Committee meeting that a project manager be hired for 8th & Waldo. She added, “I don’t want to see the east side of town off the track… I don’t know of any other firm that has the staff all in one place that can address these projects… I think we have to be bold here and step forward and try to bring these projects together… I think that CHW can do that. I don’t have a problem with selecting them at this point because I know that they have the expertise.” She said she wanted to make a motion at the appropriate time.
In response to a question from Commissioner Reina Saco, Curry said there are “10 to 20 firms” on the City’s continuing engineering services contract, which enables the City to get started on a project quickly. Saco asked whether other firms on the list can provide “wraparound services for a project like EHEDI,” and the answer was, “Yes.” Saco continued, “[This] is an option. We have a form for it. It is not abnormal for the City to just go in this direction… So I am perfectly comfortable, only because I was told it’s up to $375,000 planned for a rainy day.” Saco also clarified that the City is “not just paying for a person. We’re paying for also other services that the firm offers” and pointed out that CHW is a local company, which is a priority for the City.
“Equity’s about fair opportunity… we have to have the appearance of good government.” – Commissioner Ed Book
Book said he agreed with the importance of “mov[ing] forward on these things,” but “the no-bid procurement is problematic for us as a City… If we don’t look and determine what is out there and what other firms have the capability to do this and bid–and if we don’t find out that there may be in fact other corporations or local businesses that can do these type of things, we run the risk of really losing integrity as a City government, and that concerns me greatly. Equity’s about fair opportunity… we have to have the appearance of good government.” He said he didn’t hear any comments or see any emails from the public that were in favor of the contract and added, “If we lose a few months in the long run, we’ve probably gained some trust there that’s not worth trading.” He said he would defer to Chestnut to make the motion but said his motion would probably be different from hers.
“In any typical time period, I would say, you know, put it out to bid, go through the whole process. We’re in a really odd period right now.” – Commissioner Bryan Eastman
Commissioner Bryan Eastman said, “In any typical time period, I would say, you know, put it out to bid, go through the whole process. We’re in a really odd period right now.” He said it was important to alleviate the workload in the City Manager’s office while they’re working on the budget, but he was also concerned about whether a consultant would be able to effectively work across departments.
“Every year we don’t rebuild that football stadium, that’s one more year of kids who graduate, who use the 60-year-old facility.” – Mayor Harvey Ward
Mayor Harvey Ward said it was important to point out that the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area funds, which will be used for all the projects, are time-limited, and once the funds are used up, the City won’t have a need for this type of project manager. He continued, “We don’t do RFPs quickly. We don’t award things quickly. There’s an excellent chance we put this out for bid and end exactly where we are right now, just six months down the road or a year down the road.” Ward said that delaying the hiring of a project manager would delay citizens’ use of the amenities that will be built, including a better football stadium, a better pool, better soccer fields, and economic development on Hawthorne Road: “Every year we don’t rebuild that football stadium, that’s one more year of kids who graduate, who use the 60-year-old facility.” He said it’s possible that one or more of the projects won’t get built if they delay.
Duncan-Walker said, “There is also an issue of equity here at play, and I think that is one thing that we speak to but don’t fully employ from the dais. I yearn for the day that we actually do it.” She said she didn’t want to delay the projects, but she wanted “the people who contribute to the greatness of this city” to have the same opportunity as CHW.
During public comment, Jo Beaty said the public “wants to see things get done properly. And I think the optics are not good, and you already have a lot of optics that aren’t good… And I think going out for bid would be one way of showing the people.”
Ward asked Curry, “There is a legal process that we’re following here, is there not?” Curry responded, “Of course it is. I wouldn’t be recommending it if it wasn’t.”
Ward said, “I think it is important to say this. This is not an uncommon process. This is not an uncommon process for cities or counties or states or federal government.” He said, however, that he was “having doubts about it.”
Gerry Dedenbach of CHW said he was “really pleased when Phil [Mann] and Andrew [Persons] reached out on behalf of Ms. Curry to ask us and give us the honor to work for you all today and into the future here.” He said expertise, experience, and “expedience” are all important. He said the firm would give the City access to “professional civil engineers, licensed landscape architects, licensed surveyors who do terrestrial surveys… drone photography… certified arborists… ecologists… We also have certified inspectors who understand maintenance of traffic, engineering inspection aspects… Importantly, we have worked for decades with the City of Gainesville… That’s how we wrote this unique sole source thing, giving you access to 125 professionals that live and work here in our community across seven different disciplines to get your projects done.”
“This is really about the manner in which we do business, and the manner in which we do business has to be above reproach.” – Commissioner Ed Book
Book said he didn’t question CHW’s ability to do the work, but “this is really about the manner in which we do business, and the manner in which we do business has to be above reproach.” He was also concerned that embedding someone from the private sector in the City Manager’s office could cause “issues with confidentiality… You’re mixing government with private enterprise to get something done in the interest of expediency.”
“I do hope you will support this motion because we need to move. We need to stay on course.” – Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut
Willits asked how long it would take to put it out to bid, and Curry estimated it would take three months. Chestnut, however, said, “I’m thinking that this would take six months… I think six months is a valuable amount of time, and a lot could happen in that six-month period to move us further down the line… I do hope you will support this motion because we need to move. We need to stay on course.”
Saco asked Curry, “Are these kinds of procurement exceptions–I won’t say uncommon, but regularly used?” Curry responded, “They’re not regularly used, but they are used. Clearly, a regular procurement process where you go through, you know, your solicitation, is the preferred way to go, but when there are special circumstances that are dictated, this is something that is used… That’s why we already had a form for it.”
“I don’t want us to get into a trend that I have seen, that is very troubling, where staff does their work and then we say thanks, we don’t think you did it right… The trust of our staff is just as important as the trust of the public.” – Commissioner Reina Saco
Saco said, “There were a handful of comments about ‘Nobody supports this,’ and I really distinctly hate that when we have five people commenting on something, it suddenly becomes, ‘No one else has argued against this.’ Five people out of 140-something thousand is not 100% of the population being against something.” She added, “I don’t want us to get into a trend that I have seen, that is very troubling, where staff does their work and then we say thanks, we don’t think you did it right… The trust of our staff is just as important as the trust of the public.”
Eastman was concerned about the consultant’s level of access to City business if they were working in the City Manager’s office on a daily basis, and Curry responded that it won’t be on a daily basis: “No, it isn’t. It clearly is not… The word ’embedded’ is a little severe, I think. And we used it in our item. We could have used a better word.”
Ward pointed out that this does not award any work in the projects to CHW, and that all of those decisions will come back to the commission.
Chestnut made a motion to 1) Approve the contract for project management; and 2) Authorize the City Manager or their designee to execute the contract, subject to approval by the City Attorney or designee as to form and legality.
The motion passed 5-2, with Duncan-Walker and Book in dissent.
Ward concluded, “I want to say I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this. Thank you for weighing in. This gets us a step closer to some really amazing projects, and I look forward to being able to see those projects get done.”
They need a business analytics person who specializes in making deep cuts (not a project manager).
What they need is to be spayed and neutered.
Come to think of it, that should have happened a long, long time ago.
Thank you Chuck Clemons, Keith Perry and the many others who worked hard to get the GRU bill passed. Speaking as a county GRU customer, it is wonderful to be able to read about the stone cold idiocy of the city commission and know that I’m not one of the people who is getting the shaft.
Perhaps you’ve missed the state legislature at work lately. These idiots will do anything the Governor asks, including passing 3 bills now meant to bail him out of his ridiculous vendetta against the state’s most successful and powerful business because he didn’t like what it’s CEO said about bills he had passed. Hard to believe, right? Yeah, but true. No thought given about the impact of this on Orlando area businesses and employees.
Perhaps you missed the fact that City Hall is falling apart at the seams. Hence the reason to bring in CHW to oversee their own jobs. Why even bother? Might as well just let them do whatever they want and get out of their way.
What’s actually hard to believe is that good progressives aren’t cheering the end of a multi-generational tax break to a large and very profitable corporation.
Steve, there were no allegations of tax cheating or unfairness about Disney prior to this tantrum by the Governor. What Disney had was the ability to self govern the then jungle area in which they invested so heavily, created a tax and jobs generating behemoth which made Orlando an international destination, and for which there are no serious allegations of mis-management or corruption. There are many other Special districts in Florida, among them The Villages where GOP politicians love to preen. The Governor in his own stupid comments has made it clear that this is about him punishing them for taking a perfectly legal position on an issue at odds with his, and his dislike of their product. In America, we usually just don’t buy something we don’t like, not pass laws to try and blackmail the company into changing it.
Did I mention that DeSantis has never run a business, has never even worked in the private sector, but somehow we are to assume he will know how to run Disney and GRU? Taking Disney as an example, we can expect new board members to be political hacks and religious cranks.
If you are buying that BS justification, you’re probably 11 years old or in any case, not to be trusted with family money at the State Fair.
Like the thoughts and considerations local lunatics give residents before raising taxes & utility rates?
Jazzman is in constant deflection mode! He is a former local politician whose claim to fame is following comrade Biden’s tactics to the letter! Deflect any and all problems, kick the can down the road, blame someone else for their failures (he’s a COVID-19 mask proponent, even though they were proven to be ineffective no matter what their buddies from UF said, political payoffs)!
You will never get a straight answer to a problem out of him! He has been very successful at deflecting the issues at GNV CC, and of course most important to him, the AC BOCC. He keeps taxpayers from wondering why the A$$es at AC BOCC maintain the high property tax millage rates when they could give taxpayers in the county a break, as well as use the county gas tax for fixing roads!
Just another day in the Biden playbook!
Hey, did you hear the news? The Covid pandemic has now finally been downgraded from emergency status (literally just today) lol. Our country is being run by IDIOTS!
Teach, I have never run for office and live in the county. The rest of your unfocused highly partisan and content free attack is not worth a response. Maybe stick to one and I’ll grace you with a whatever other needed correction you need.
Scientific American: Masks Work. Distorting Science to Dispute the Evidence Doesn’t
My views are partisan? That is rich, coming from someone who cuts and pastes the same BS about Republican candidates in each post! Of course at the local level, the previous BOCC and GNV CCs set the bar for stupidity high for the current hot air spouting, kick the can, do nothing groups!
I am an independent voter, I’ll vote for anyone but Brandon or Clinton nationally! Maybe that should be the focus of the Republican and Independent Parties in AC: Anyone but Brandon or Crooked Clinton! How about a strong Forward Party candidate! Right now, Wong or Tusi would kick Brandon’s butt and the trickle down would be lethal for the Dem and Rep leadership in AC!
My local votes go to anyone who doesn’t want to spend my tax money on pet projects! A few: sole source contracting within government contracting without justification other than they are lazy (same as making the interim managers permanent in GNV city), and of course the thieves and tax evaders who spend my tax money on buying swamps instead of building new roads (increasing capacity), repairing existing roads, public safety (firehouses and law enforcement presence!
Don’t worry though, I don’t need a Democratic drone “gracing” me by blubbering the party line!
Applause for a taking of property from an owner is wrong. Clemons and Perry devious power play is a form of theft.
Your coined term “Home Rule” is another dem devised term similar to “election denier” being applied to anyone who questions a single vote or voter anywhere. Most of the HOME town folks were forced to suck up ridiculous rate hikes to keep up with DEC radical woke ideas that didn’t benefit the HOME folks one bit, much less the county residents who pay twice the tax. If the past was home rule, it failed miserably the last 13 years. It’s over! Cry elsewhere.
What’s more “wrong”? Taking it with the intent of preventing the controllers, (City Commission), not the owners, from using the funds generated by the publicly owned utility or the City and County preventing homeowners from using their property they have purchased? (See special permits required of those living close to the stadium.)
There is no other word for taking ownership of something away from the voters who do own it. It is theft from 2 corrupt politicians who could not gain control over the City in an election, and hopefully the courts are clear headed enough to recognize that obvious fact.
“I don’t want us to get into a trend that I have seen, that is very troubling, where staff does their work and then we say thanks, we don’t think you did it right… The trust of our staff is just as important as the trust of the public.” – Commissioner Reina Saco
That time is WAY, WAY past. Some of those idiots can’t be trusted in any way, shape or form.
There are some who will continue to heap praise and shower them with accolades. They are naive idiots who are happy in their blissful ignorance.
Never approve a no bid contract, period. This is a slippery slope and if it were another firm without deep ties to many powerful folks, people would be up in arms. The silliness of flattening government only to hire more consultants is the definition of incompetence.
That’s what the liberal voters in Gainesville did when they elected the Democrat knuckleheads. They voted for something without knowing what they were getting into. Then again, maybe they did know, just too ignorant to know better.
The notes from this hapless self serving city fiefdom gives me a headache.
Probably the same mindset of the captain of the Titanic.
Wow, none of the City Creatures have a full deck. Maybe a stacked deck ,but not a full deck in business 101. Another F Grade
Interesting that City policies make staff get 3 quotes typically and go through a bid process for higher priced services, yet the commission does not?!?! CHW is a great firm, however this reeks of impropriety!
East Gainesville contributes absolutely nothing to the City, financial or otherwise. How about deannexing East Gainesville? 🤔 It is a complete moral and financial abyss.
It contributes, just in less desirable ways than some are willing to admit. There’s some good people on the east side, just like on the west, (and bad on both as well). However, the majority of the tax revenue does fall upon the west and most of the crime & poverty lie to the east. 911 calls are proof of that, just check on which rescue units are the busiest.
That’s why some are so vehemently opposed to the county being split.
The conflict of interest to embed someone from CHW is astounding. More evidence at how dysfunctional City Hall has become under Poe and now Ward’s leadership. All of these projects that are in progress must be getting hung up and delayed because the City can’t do their job. That’s why CHW wants to install their own manager to get these projects finished. Either way, CHW is a very rich company, they should pay this not the rest of us.
CHW is notorious for this. They scratch the city’s back and the city scratches their back. Some people will do anything for money.
They need to hire consultants who will get their easy spending of taxpayers $$$ under control. Enough pseudo social engineering. It’s a waste to throw money at the homeless, criminals, and businesses on the eastside. Now….FIX THE DAMN ROADS!!!
It’s clear what’s happening – if u listened to meeting.
They are rushing this through to get the Citizen’s Field project started quickly. They don’t want to wait 6 months to get project team onboard.
Because they know once the JLAC report comes out – and sanctions/oversight is introduced the project is going to be stopped. They want to get it going where it’s almost impossible to cancel.
The Commission seems to be in a rush to do a lot of things. This, the solar contract, changing the GFT and who knows what else. Instead of focusing on fixing their problems, they just keep giving JLAC even more reasons to recommend that they be removed from office.
The JLAC is aware of the City Commission’s and Mayors scheme. All the decisions they have made in the last 60 days will be overruled, retracted , and hopefully specific penalties and fines. Stay Tuned , Comrades.
All thanks to Commissioners Duncan-Walker and Ed Book for showing sense and sensibility on this vote. Their position lost, but at least they showed that there some principaled commissioners still in the game.
Ward failed to say that every year he and his idiotic incompetence is in office is another year of residents having to deal with increased taxes, utility rates, crime and the continued decline of societal norms in Gainesville.
Wonder what idiots want to continue voting for that?
As a builder who hires subs all the time, there are good reasons to not put all contracts out to bid. Among them are established relationships of trust and the knowledge of a party of conditions not necessarily known to others. It’s a judgement call and not automatic as most here seem to think.