Miami-Dade official moves to straighten out Performing Arts Center problems
By Shannon Pettypiece
A few weeks into his assignment to supervise construction of the Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami, Assistant County Manager Bill Johnson says he is touring the site and meeting with contractors, board members and employees in an attempt to get the delayed project back on track.
Soon after the Performing Arts Center Trust, the group that will run the facility, asked Miami-Dade County to consider firing builders, County Manager George Burgess put Mr. Johnson in charge of overseeing construction on the $370 million project.
Mr. Johnson said he is talking to contractors to resolve accusations of substandard construction work.
"Termination of contractors is still an option. I'm not going to say it isn't an option," Mr. Johnson said. "Everything is on the table. (There are) no sacred cows here."
The project is plagued by substandard acoustic joints, improperly built reverberation chamber doors and poor workmanship on a glass lantern on the south side of the concert hall, Project Manager Gail Thompson and board member Stanley Arkin charged at a Sept. 11 meeting of the trust's executive committee.
The Performing Arts Center Management Office "continues to be greatly concerned with the quality of workmanship now that the architectural aesthetic is being impacted, and the delays that result from the requirement to implement repairs or replacements are continuing to extend the construction schedule unacceptably," according to a progress report presented by the management office at the trust's September board meeting.
"I'll be spending the majority of my time on this for the next six months until it is on the right foot," said Mr. Johnson, who also is in charge of the county's airports and the Port of Miami. "There's no easy solution, no easy fix."
Michael Hardy, CEO of the Performing Arts Center Trust, said he is pleased with the work the county is doing to improve the center's construction.
According to a recent construction report, many delays have been a result of building errors that needed to be corrected. The center is scheduled to open in early 2006, a year behind the original plan.
The trust's board passed a resolution Sept. 11 asking the county manager to threaten builders with dismissal unless speed and quality of work is improved.
The center was approved as a $370 million project, but Performing Arts Center Builders - a joint venture of Odebrecht Construction, Haskell Co. and EllisDon Construction - has asked for $10 million in additional pay for 250 additional days of work.
The construction companies have denied accusations of shoddy work.
About a third of the work on the center's two buildings on Biscayne Boulevard between 13th and 14th streets is complete. Work started in September 2001, and the original contract called for three years of construction time.
Mr. Johnson said he is approaching his management of the project without any previous assumptions. "I'm looking at it objectively," he said. "I'm a set of fresh eyes."
He said he expects to give a project update early next month to the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. "I'm looking at all that has gone on, where we are and where we need to go," he said. "I'm very confident we will come up with the right solutions."
A report by the Miami-Dade County Inspector General's Office regarding the quality of construction could be released within a week.