Hold ups on sewer upgrades prevent investment, threaten environment

We are no strangers to red tape in Miami-Dade County, but it’s surprising how a recent dispute over the process of selecting a contractor to upgrade Miami’s sewer system could prevent record levels of investment from arriving to Miami-Dade— not to mention about 20,000 jobs. In certain pockets around the county, like Coconut Grove, new projects and business expansions are stalled because not one more toilet can be installed. The county must act now to help our local economy grow and prevent an environmental disaster.

In case you missed it, Miami’s sewers are out of date. Aging waste-water treatment plants don’t have the capacity to treat more sewage, the root of the problem. The way the city makes it sound, we are moments away from a total system meltdown – who knew? I don’t know about you, but I, for one, don’t look forward to waking up to a city with sewage overflowing into our streets, our bay and our ocean. Not only is this hold-up stalling proposed residential and commercial projects across Miami-Dade, but it’s also preventing local businesses from getting off the ground as well, as this NPR story points out.

This map highlights the most problematic areas
Some of Miami-Dade County’s most out-dated areas

The pipes are out of date, and poorly treated waste-water violates a number of federal environmental laws. In June, the commissioners approved an agreement with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency to settle violations to the Clear Water Act. As part of the deal,  the  county committed $1.6 billion to repairs over the next 15 years. All that was left was to pick who would manage the overhaul.

Image thanks to https://www.surrey.ca/images/Sewer_Construction.jpgAs Marcelo Llorente points out in a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald today, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust vetted the selection process — as well as the county attorney and the inspector general — and found no wrongdoing. He calls upon the county to move forward with their original pick, CH2M Hill. Any more delays will lead to costly fines from the federal government, burdening the tax payers with higher water bills and a less clean and safe environment for all of us.

Let’s get this show on the road?

Miami Herald

County must move forward on sewer overhaul

              Miami-Dade needs to finalize a procurement process to select the company that will overhaul its aging sewer system. The system’s state of disrepair threatens our environment and quality of life; the need for timely action is real. Beyond fixing our sewers, the repairs will create tens of thousands of jobs and spur welcome economic impact.

The project is so important that the county has conducted one of its most thorough selection processes ever. Despite this transparency, discussion remains among county officials on how to finalize this critical selection.

Here are the facts:

•  Two teams are competing to win the contract: CH2M HILL and AECOM.

•  The county’s process is composed of two “Tiers” — Tier 1 requires companies to submit qualifications and Tier 2 requests a “plan approach” outlining how they will implement the project.

Both teams submitted credentials during Tier 1, but AECOM included an unsolicited plan approach. The county’s independent selection committee reviewed the qualifications and determined that both teams should proceed to Tier 2.

As requested, CH2M HILL submitted plans for implementing the project during Tier 2. With both plans submitted and the playing field level, the committee concluded that CH2M HILL’s plan was preferable, largely due to the firm’s experience managing nearly 50 similar consent-decree programs nationally.

The second-ranked AECOM team soon began discrediting the county’s selection process as flawed.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez requested expert opinions on these allegations. The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, county attorney and inspector general investigated the claims and found no wrongdoing.

Now that the county’s top arbiters of compliance have vindicated this process, it’s time for the county to uphold the selection committee’s recommendation by moving forward with CH2M HILL, the most qualified firm.

Anything less than this would stall the inevitable, exposing taxpayers to costly penalties and delaying the arrival of up to 20,000 jobs.

Marcelo Llorente,
consultant, CH2M HILL,
Miami Beach