Article highlights a stymied building project on Miami Beach
|What’s Happening With the Normandy Isle Pool Project?|
By Paula A. Pellegrino
NBT Contributing Writer
Strolling down Trouville Esplanade on a balmy afternoon, you cannot help but say to yourself, “This moment could be even more wonderful with a relaxing little dip in a pool of clear, cool, refreshing water…”
It is just then, while these soothing mental images are coursing through your mind, that you approach Rue Normandy and notice a dry, dusty, seemingly deserted cinderblock construction site, fenced in by chain link that stretches well above your head. Almost instantly, a wave of intense heat rushes through you and completely evaporates that grand feeling of vitality that had come with thoughts of a swim.
Frustration mounts as you recall the fact that, indeed, there is supposed to be a new pool on that very spot and it was scheduled to be completed more than a year ago. Actually, it is not just a pool but a whole recreation center; complete with shade pavilions, multipurpose courts and field, a tot-lot, gated entries and security lights. You wonder then,
“What could have possibly happened to the Normandy Isle Park and Pool Project?” Well, if you assume that it is a long and complicated story, you are absolutely correct.
The most recent status report on the Project records that the City Commission gave City Manager Jorge Gonzalez the authority to enter into an agreement for a timely completion of the plan. The resolution includes an amendment to the existing agreement with Corradino Group, Inc., the architect-of-record, to provide additional services necessary to complete and administer the remaining work. This latest development resulted from a virtually unending string of complications involving, the City says, Regosa Engineering, the contractor originally assigned to the construction.
As a concerned, 37-year resident and constant political advocate for North Beach, commissioner Jose Smith said, “Most large construction projects, particularly in the public sector, run into delays and problems with contractors. The Normandy Isle Park and Pool has had more than its share. The problems with the former contractor are numerous and complex and are likely to end up in court. Suffice it to say that the project has the highest priority in the City, all the necessary funding is in place, and we are working through the problems to ensure completion by next summer.”
As for the people who live in the area and view the site on a daily basis, there is a fair amount of confusion. Take for instance a young boy named Mariano who often rides his bike on the sidewalks surrounding the construction site.
When asked if he was happy about the idea of having a new pool to swim in, he just shook his head confusedly and replied, “They’re never going to finish, so I don’t get very excited, but I will swim if the pool opens.”
Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Otero, who live directly across from the site and observe it every day, say they only see construction activity early in the morning, every now and again. “It would be nice to see them finish it, not for us, but for the children,” Mrs. Otero remarked as she looked across the street from her front steps.
Alex Alvarez, a senior at Miami Beach Senior High School, remembers when he used to attend a summer camp that was held on the property. “They knocked down the park, the field, the court and the playground for the children. Why is it taking them so long to do anything with it?”
As mentioned above, it’s a long story:
The first Commission report on the project back in February 2003 revealed that an issue with the cement piles to be placed under the deck of the pool had been modified at an additional charge of approximately $179,000. That’s when September 2003 was still the projected completion date.
By July 30, 2003, the actual pool was under construction. The foundation system was complete and the walls were coming up. However, the contractor had demolished portions of the basketball and tennis courts to accommodate the park’s new concrete walkway connecting Rue Granville and Trouville Esplanade.
Replacement of the existing basketball and tennis courts were put on hold due to lack of funding. At that point, though, there was talk of another $288,000 becoming available to fund some of the non-funded components such as additional park drainage, landscaping, and the multi-purpose court.
This amount included a request by the administration for the City Commission to appropriate the remaining balance from the GO Bond fund allocation for the Shane Watersports Center to the Normandy Park and Pool and the Community Development Block Grant funds. The additional funds, when authorized, were to become available on Oct. 1, 2003. The project’s originally scheduled completion date of September 2003 had been moved to November 2003.
As that September finish date came and went, a significant delay developed due to two major events caused, states the City, by the contractor. The special inspector rejected the pool deck because it did not follow contract documents: The pool slab was poured without a required reinforcing steel inspection from the special inspector, plus the concrete placement had already started before inspection. One City Commission report stated that since the issue was deemed to be the fault of the contractor, the City should not have to bear any additional cost. More time was not to be added to the schedule and if the contractor missed the completion date due to this issue, then the contractor was to incur liquidated damages.
At the October 15, 2003 Commission meeting, the administration informed the committee there were serious issues with the performance of the contractor, but by November 25, 2003, funds originally allocated for the Byron Carlyle Theatre Project were redistributed in the amount of $300,000 for the pool. Now the Commission was informed that Regosa had taken steps to correct deficiencies on the lean concrete slab and the reinforcing steel for the deck, as well as changed supervisory staff assigned to the project and was starting to create a recovery plan. The project was still behind schedule.
By July 28, 2004, additional allocations for the project had reached $438,000 and the Commission was informed that the administration was working to remove the contract from Regosa and turn the entire project over to another contractor.
In response, Regosa representatives assert that it is in fact the City, not themselves, who were responsible for work stopping. In their words, the project was delayed from the beginning because the City plans were defective and never completely in alignment with all applicable building codes, permits were missing, and the City failed time and time again to pay Regosa promptly.
“It was all a result of poor planning [on the part of the architects],” said Juan Gomero, co-owner of Regosa, who has stacks of binders dedicated to supporting the engineering company’s case. “It is very difficult to build a good building without good plans. It’s like trying to write a story without the proper information; it’s impossible.”
Basically, Gomero contends the company is being used as a scapegoat by the City, and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez in particular, to deflect blame from themselves regarding “a huge failure in structural preparation.”
“From the very beginning, there were gaps in the details of the plan that were never corrected,” Juan explained. “I can guarantee you that no one can visualize 100 percent before building begins, but as we got into the execution of the plan, we ended up submitting 107 requests for information to the planners, 80 of which resulted in modifications to the building plans…After three years, to still have structural changes occurring is not normal.”
He recalls something so basic as measurements for the dimensions of the pool being miscalculated and in need of correction. This particular mistake became evident to the builder on site during the pool foundation preparations. Every builder is committed to following the plans exactly as approved. When errors or miscalculations become evident, the plans must be changed and re-approved before work may proceed. The process for submitting requests for information, subsequent deviations from the original plan, and approval from the appropriate authorities (engineering, structural, architectural, etc.) are each time-consuming steps that delayed this project months at a time.
“It’s politics,” Gomero stated. “The Chief Architect of Corradino was fired and there was a complete crew overhaul for the project. If you look at the plans, they look nice. It looks creative. But, it’s when you get to the details that problems come up.”
His wife and partner Draguisa Romero said she asked the Commission for 15 days to gather and present the mitigating circumstances of her case prior to declaring her in default. Instead of granting her this time, she stated, they followed the direction of the city manager and relieved her of obligation before she was able to plead her case.
“We have worked with the City for 14 years and [before now] never had a problem,” she said, adding that now she is unduly questioned about this project by various individuals as she tries to carry on about her business around the area.
“After the default, they [the City] tried to harm our reputation,” she said. “We have our lawyers, but you cannot waste time and money fighting City Hall.”
Regosa, a “women-owned minority enterprise” states that they are still suffering damages incurred by “the actions and inactions of the City and its representatives and agents.”
On the newer, brighter side, Commissioner Saul Gross feels hopeful that the recent modifications involving the assignment of authority to the City Manager will revive the project and get things streamlined and moving again. He also noted the use now of line-by-line item contracting whereby Project needs will be matched to possible builders based upon rates set up in a manual; not in following with a traditional bidding process. As Gross stated, “We all want to get it done as soon as possible.”
When questioned recently about the status of the Park and Pool, Ronnie Singer, community information manager for the Capital Improvement Project, and Tim Hemstreet, the Normandy Isle Park and Pool Project Manager, deferred comment to Nannette Rodriguez, public information officer for the City. Rodriguez was certain that now, with the hiring of Carivon Construction Company, “we can make sure this project is completed. They probably will have to go in to check and correct anything that has already been done.”
On Sept. 17, a follow-up meeting was held on site to clarify the scope to be included in the second deliverable, which is to include the status report, recommendations for repairs, and marked-up construction drawings. The team also reviewed the proposed drainage and the grading modifications for the South and West portions of the park, where Corradino agreed to prepare a bid package for this portion of the work, using the existing drainage design, with minor modifications to the grading plan
Corradino has committed to submit the second deliverable by November 1. And now, the most recent projected completion is set for Feb. 2005. We will see.
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