County to extend contract of Miami airport consultant
By Suzy Valentine
Miami-Dade Aviation Department officials will extend a contract with a consultant against the wishes of some county commissioners because the aviation director told them it would be more efficient than conducting a fresh search.
The Center for Airport Management will continue advising Miami International Airport officials for another year under a contract worth up to $200,000 as construction of the airport's North and South terminals reaches a critical stage. It is the seventh time the county has extended the contract.
Commissioners Nov. 3 cited defective requests for proposals - including the retail concession package they were revisiting at the meeting - as evidence that the consultant has been incompetent. However, Aviation Director Jose Abreu, who took office July 11, said the airport couldn't afford to abandon the relationship at this stage.
"This issue went through committee," said Mr. Abreu, "and Commissioner Dennis Moss raised the issue that if something didn't work before, why were we keeping it?"
For the benefit of commissioners who hadn't attended the commission's regional transportation committee meeting Oct. 14, Mr. Abreu reiterated his reasoning - that he favors continuity and believes the consultant could have been better directed.
"I don't want to change horses in the middle of the race," said Mr. Abreu, "and it's like the outcome of a jury trial. A lot depends upon how the judge charges the jury, and I'm not at all sure that we charged that jury correctly."
Commissioner Natacha Seijas suggested that the consultant's contract be renewed on a month-by-month basis - a proposal County Manager George Burgess said would be unworkable.
The commission approved the contract extension, although Commissioner Carlos Gimenez suggested that, in the meantime, a request for proposals be prepared for the consultancy work.
Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler asked why the department had continued to present requests for proposals that didn't encourage participation by small or minority businesses when there was a consultant to advise on such matters.
"If they were so smart, who looked at them?" she asked. "It's always, we forgot to put something in for local businesses or we forgot to include diversity. I want our consultants to do that. That's part of their responsibility and mission."
A revised request for proposals for retail concessions also fell short of commissioners' expectations last week. The request solicited responses from small businesses for three of 27 retail units, fewer than in the previous failed request. None of the eight bundles of units in the draft specifically targeted minority businesses.
Mr. Abreu said the aviation department has done as much as it is obliged to do.
"This is consistent with the local provider ordinance," he explained. "There is a federal law stating what you can and cannot do. In the case of this retail request for proposals, we have done as much as we can based on the law on the books. There are provisions for local themes and local management."
Nevertheless, after discussion the board amended the resolution to have the request for proposals reworked so that half of the disadvantaged business enterprise participation would apply to the news and gifts category.