Photo City of Key West Utility Dept
Photo City of Key West Utility Dept

by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….

Pressure is rising on Roosevelt Boulevard reconstruction.  Mayor Cates declared [on US 1 radio last Wednesday] that he was deeply troubled by the rate of progress on the N. Roosevelt Boulevard project.  On a trip to Tallahassee, Cates apparently met with State Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and urged him to visit Key West to see the work for himself.

“He is going to bring the contractor down – de Moya Group,” says Cates, “and speak to the citizens of Key West and answer any questions they have and try to come up with a plan to move this project forward.”

It looks like Mayor Cates has gotten the attention of the contractor.  We’ve received the first positive comment since we began our Roosevelt Boulevard Watch several weeks ago:

“[Something] just may have lit a fire under someone’s ass,” says one commenter also noting,  “Yesterday (Tues. 5/28)@ 7:30am, I witnessed at least 7 people working on the concrete forms for the sea-wall at Palm and Roosevelt, even though the forecast called for rain and the sky was dark.  And today (Wed. 5/29)@ about noon there is what appears to be a full crew pouring concrete in the pouring rain.” – H2OKEV

The impression of an idle worksite added to a lack of transparency epitomized by the grotesque green fence has fueled controversy right from the start.

The reader may remember that it took months of waiting and the threat of a lawsuit before FDOT answered KWTN’s public records request for the contractor’s monthly scheduling reports.   Monthly scheduling updates are mandated by the contract, but de Moya was simply not making the reports.  When the reports finally came in, they were outdated and the charts were incoherent:  Some of the start dates for specific jobs were later than the finish dates.  None of it was very reassuring.

And there was the Chaney controversy, with FDOT emphatically denying that the man who had been at the center of a scandal involving bribery of a sewer inspector in Miami-Dade (and is currently being prosecuted for offering a $30,000 bribe to a county Sheriff) was in any way connected to the Roosevelt Boulevard project.

Now that it has become clear and undeniable that Chaney is actually working as a subcontractor on the Boulevard, FDOT spokesman Dean Walters has declared [on US 1 Radio] that all he did was follow FDOT’s directions when he told everyone that Chaney was not involved with Roosevelt Boulevard reconstruction.  Why the cover-up?

And then there was the question as to whether FDOT and its engineering contractor were making up ‘rain days’ thereby potentially decreasing the contractor’s $16,200/day [disincentive/liquidated damages] fee.   Is FDOT’s relationship with the contractor too cozy?

But none of that is really the problem.  When interviewing Key West residents and Boulevard business owners, the only thing which appears to really matter to them is whether or not this construction project is going to be completed on time and without any hidden defects.

To summarize the interviews with the Boulevard business owners: All of the owners knew this project was coming and they”ve been ready to tough it out.  They can drain their savings, delay payments, take out loans and mortgages.  They can ask their employees to agree to reduced pay or reduced hours, but for any of this to happen within the rules of prudent business, they need to know fairly precisely when it is all going to return to normal.   Without that certitude, they wonder if each day isn’t just a waste – if they’re going to end up failing anyhow – perhaps they should just pull out now before they suffer even greater losses.

In the meantime, the road in front of their shops is torn open, with only 3 or 4 people working 2 miles away, 6 months has been added to the schedule and the news comes out that the same sewer contractor that is working on Roosevelt did such shoddy work in Miami that it had to be reopened [a cause for more delays] and the uncertainly turns into – well – you know what.

FDOT recently told KWTN the job was projected to be only 45 days late, but according to the official schedule published a year ago and statements made by FDOT spokesperson Dean Walters, the work is about six months behind schedule.

Walter’s excuse is that this is a very complicated project and he did not know how to explain the schedule  better.  But nothing can change the fact that the FDOT authorized the chart published a year ago, and it clearly indicated that the work on the business side of the Boulevard would begin on April 1st.  And now the very same spokesman who presented that chart to all the world is telling us that the switch will not happen until sometime in October, while at the same time we are told that the project is officially only 45 days behind schedule.

So, is de Moya indeed set on executing a $41 Million project with just 5 to 10 workers laboring for two and one-half years or is something afoot?  That something could be that de Moya is currently heavily invested in a $559 Million project in Miami.   The project is a state of the art four-level interchange highway near the international airport that includes the construction of 47 bridges.

Concurrently de Moya is involved in a $72 Million project on I-75, where it passes over the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County, that includes the widening of 4 bridges.

There is no doubt that a company of this caliber could expedite our little growing pain on Roosevelt Boulevard and finish it up in a few months.  But perhaps by having overstretched itself it is unable to do so?

A regular excuse offered by FDOT for the slow progress on the Boulevard is alleged difficulties in housing and transportion of workers who are brought in from Miami.  However, FDOT’s public representations about the project indicated an intent to hire at least 12 people from Key West as trainees on the project.

Having trainees is actually a contractual requirement but that requirement, as well as the requirement for monthly scheduling reports, is not being fervently pursued.  In fact, only 3 “trainees” have been hired to date and there is no indication that any of them are from Key West.  Only one has worked more that 250 hours and the only “training” any of them have received has been as  “traffic control specialists”.   In other words, the guys with the flags.

Arguably, having 12 more people on the site would make a difference.  It also would be great if 12 local young men or women were to learn a skill a bit more promising than bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie.

Key West is always selling this ‘Paradise’ image, but the truth is many people on the island are working their butts off and they want this job done on time.  A deal is a deal and that’s all there is to it.

See our previous coverage of Roosevelet Boulevard Construction here.




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