Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor's Review Slows Payments; Contractors Nervous as Paperwork Stalls in Brown's Office

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor's Review Slows Payments; Contractors Nervous as Paperwork Stalls in Brown's Office

Article excerpt

Byline: Timothy J. Gibbons

It's been six weeks since Javier Garcia finished rehabilitating the Confederate Point Bridge, and he's still waiting for $131,000 the city owes him for the job.

That leads to a tough situation for the owner of Pinnacle Civil and General Contractors, who has been staving off vendors and subcontractors to whom he owes money connected to the job.

"It creates a tension between us," Garcia said.

He's not alone in feeling that tension. Contractors large and small have struggled with a slowdown in receiving payments from the city in the 2 1/2 months since Mayor Alvin Brown took office.

Weeks of waiting have been tacked on to some decisions, including signing contracts and issuing payments, as the new administration holds up documents at the end of the procurement process. The paperwork goes through the same steps it had in the previous administration but then stalls when it reaches the mayor's office for a final signature.

The additional time is to allow for "an extra level of scrutiny" on contracts, said Chief of Staff Chris Hand.

"It's very important for us to do our due diligence," he said. "These are large amounts of taxpayer dollars."

Among the items the administration feels bears more scrutiny: the number of change orders and the way long-term maintenance is budgeted.

That doesn't mean the reviewers are finding problems with the projects. Of the 57 projects approved by the General Government Awards Committee in July and August, only one was rejected by the mayor's office: a $734,258 project replacing 446 Sheriff's Office laptops. Before signing off on it, said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling, the mayor's office wants more information.

Whether they find anything, though, the reviews take time. Ten of the 11 items approved by the General Government Awards Committee on July 14, for example, weren't passed through the mayor's office until late August. The decisions that languished for six weeks included extending a contract for sandbags through the end of hurricane season in September, renewing a contract for drain line replacement and construction and renewing a street-sweeping contract, all with prices staying the same.

In contrast, the seven items approved by the committee at its July 7 meeting received final approval the next day, which was the common practice before the review began. Brown took over as mayor on July 1.

As well as holding up payment, the delay in signing those documents has resulted in some contracts lapsing - for a while, the city had to buy police car tires on emergency purchase orders - although it's unclear if the city has suffered financially.

The wait does hurt contractors, though, particularly small and emerging businesses.

City rules already stipulate these contractors should receive payments more quickly, although small contractors often say this doesn't happen during normal times. …

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