The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors pushed forward in its search for a new engineering firm this week, approving a request for qualifications (RFQ) after a month’s delay to work on its wording.
Supervisor Gary Dunkley had made the original request to advertise for a new engineering firm in March after a resident alleged a possible conflict of interest by the district’s current engineering firm, Engenuity Group.
Engenuity Group’s name had come up during a proposal by the firm Atkins Engineering in its response to a request for qualifications by the City of West Palm Beach. Engenuity had been listed as a local partner by Atkins, an international firm.
Engenuity’s Lisa Tropepe, who serves as ITID’s engineer, said she had not been aware that her firm’s name had come up in such a context. Tropepe represented ITID’s interests in failed negotiations with the City of West Palm Beach over a pilot project to connect the ITID’s L Canal to West Palm Beach’s M Canal.
A draft RFQ for engineering services came before the ITID board in April, but was postponed when Dunkley asked that a clause about transparency of the applicants be included.
Resident Alex Larson said she thought the board had taken an excessive amount of time in preparing the RFQ.
“I think the time we spent on this is tremendous,” Larson said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, but it seems to take a tremendous amount of time to get anything done. And if we did have to rewrite it, how much did it cost? Hopefully this will be the last of it, it will be done correctly, and there will be no more arguments about it.”
Supervisor Michelle Damone agreed. “I don’t want to see this on the agenda again,” she said.
Dunkley said he had asked for the sentence at the request of resident Alan Ballweg, which would require that the responding firm give full disclosure of its past and possible conflicts.
“What the paragraph said is that whoever goes up for this RFQ in essence has to tell their past, if they have any type of encumbrances,” Dunkley said. “When people go for a job, history is important.”
Dunkley said he would be willing to omit the sentence if it was creating a problem in moving the RFQ forward, but Damone said the sentence did not get in because the board had not agreed on it.
Attorney Mary Viator said the new RFQ had minor revisions without the transparency sentence. Dunkley asked how much the newly written RFQ cost, and Viator said it was minimal.
“There was a statement that we rewrote the RFQ,” Viator said. “We did not rewrite the RFQ other than tweaking. We made revisions based on what you said. We sent it out to everyone and asked for response.”
Regarding the transparency sentence, Viator said that the board did not agree to include it. “There was not a concurrence on that. We didn’t want to have any Sunshine Law issues, so we made minor changes that are included in the RFQ that I handed out, and they were not major changes,” she said.
Dunkley was not happy with how the situation was handled. He noted that Viator and her staff had sat with him and revised the paragraph so it would be acceptable. “Instead of just saying, ‘You know something? The board didn’t accept it. If you take it out, it would go through,’ you wasted time. All you had to say is, ‘It’s not going to go through.’”
Damone made a motion to approve the RFQ as revised, and it carried 5-0.
In other business, the board approved the firm Kerkering, Barberio & Co. to conduct a forensic audit of the district’s finances. The audit had also been at Dunkley’s request, in response to a request by Larson.
During public comment, Larson said she was particularly concerned about $1.8 million that was spent during last year’s flooding. “Where did it go?” Larson asked. “We did it very quickly.”
Resident Patricia Curry said that focusing on spending during Tropical Storm Isaac might be appropriate. “Your contracts and procurement all year round would be another great thing to look at,” Curry added.
Damone pointed out that with FEMA funds received, the district is required to do an audit afterward. ITID Attorney Charlie Schoech said the board has the ability to look at it twice.
Resident Anne Kuhl said she appreciated the board’s desire to save money but thought a full forensic audit would be good for the community so they could see that nothing has gone on that was not above-board. “I think governmental agencies spend fifty or a hundred thousand dollars without blinking an eye,” Kuhl said. “I think this is something that we should do and get it over with.”
Former ITID Supervisor Mike Erickson called the forensic audit a waste of money.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Erickson said. “I believe that as a board you have a financial responsibility to the taxpayers’ dollars. I believe that if we’re really going to get this community on track, we need to be moving forward with projects in a positive manner and make this community what it has the ability to be. We can learn from the past, but to continually look back is a complete waste of time and money.”
Dunkley made a motion to approve a forensic audit, which carried 3-2 with Damone and Supervisor Ralph Bair opposed.