Billions on Sewage Pipes: Miami-Dade Incompetence Screws Taxpayers

Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department Chief John Renfrow claimned yesterday that a new $77 million pipe under Government Cut set a standard by being done on time and on budget.

That is hogwash, if you believe what he is reported to have said a year ago. And it masks years of incompetence in dealing with Dade's sewer and water system, -- incompetence that has and will cost taxpayers more than any other charge they pay.

According to Miami Today, that recorder of all things governmental, this project grew hugely in cost without bidding and was promised in August.

Moreover, Renfrow's false claim masks the fact the county has paid huge civil fines for screwing up the water pipes and just this past May had to agree to a $1.6 billion consent decree with the federal government that required it to fix up pipes fast.

But to focus on the Government Cut work for a minute: the work was planned for $54 million, but then workers opened things up and found huge deterioration. Renfrow told the commission: "We can't afford any delay," and suggested adding $22 million to the contract back in July 2012.

Commissioners complained, but then approved the payment to a company called Ric-Man Construction, with offices in Deerfield Beach, without seeking new bids -- a couple were absent, but only Joe Martinez and Esteban Bovo Jr. had the good sense to vote no.

So just to review: This deal had all the makings of a scandal -- a no-bid contract, feds breathing down the county's neck, and even a wonderful threat from Renfrow about the pipe: "I don;t know when it is going to blow."

A model, indeed.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse