Facts about Water Tower Park Construction Development
An approximately 12,000-square-foot vacant lot in the Lake Forest subdivision of the City of West Park was publicly advertised to be developed as a public park in June 2018. Interested contractors submitted sealed bids on June 18, 2018 after reviewing the construction manual and construction plans. Among the four bidders was JZT Utilities, Inc., which at the public bid opening appeared to have submitted the lowest bid of $448,180.74. The bids ranged from $448,180.74 to $500,200.
The project’s architect and the City’s Project Manager prepared the bid tabulation report to confirm and compare the itemized bids submitted by all constructors. During this process, the review team noticed that JZT Utilities’ total bid was $533,407.24 instead of $448,180.74 that JZT Utilities reported in their total bid sheet. While the City could have declared JZT Utilities’ bid non-responsive, the City Manager, Ajibola Balogun, allowed staff and the City’s consultant to give the disadvantaged small business an opportunity to revisit its bid, per the City’s Local Preference Policy. Then, JZT Utilities submitted a letter dated June 27, 2018 by Christopher Facey, stating: “This correspondence serves to clarify and confirm that the corresponding unit prices and totals for line items 1 through 22, on the referenced project, are inclusive of all applicable overhead, profit, bond and insurance markup. We further confirm that the bid grand total of $448,180.74 completely covers items 1 through 22,” allowing JZT Utilities to stay as the lowest bidder. With the intent of supporting disadvantaged small businesses, the City Commission approved JZT Utilities as the construction contractor to develop Water Tower Park.
FUNDING FOR THE PROJECT
The Water Tower Park construction and development was funded by the City with $98,180.74; the State of Florida contributed $50,000 in grants; and Broward County awarded $300,000 for construction of the park. Broward County’s funding agreement states: “County agrees to pay City, in the manner specified in Section 3.3, Grant Funds in an amount up to, but not exceeding, Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000).” The agreement further states: “No Grant Funds may be used to pay for the City’s administrative costs in overseeing or managing the Water Tower or the improvements thereof. Additionally, Grant Funds may not be used to pay for recreation programming or operational costs.”
The entire $300,000 grant from Broward County was used to construct the Water Tower Park as required by the contract, contrary to the false statement in the article published entitled, “How West Park’s Financial Shenanigans Hurt a Small Business”. JZT Utilities submitted a line item bid for the project, to include the cost of $15,000 to cut through the subject road and perform a tap from a 6-inch water line across the street (north side of S.W. 39th Street) and to install a 2-inch water line with backflow preventer. This water line is intended to feed the water fountain and the irrigation system that JZT Utilities was contracted to install as part of the construction project. Instead of performing the work as bid, JZT Utilities tapped the water line from a 2-inch water line on the south side of S.W. 39th Street (on the corner of the property) to avoid cutting through the road and re-paving. This work was performed without seeking approval from the City. Yet, JZT Utilities submitted a payment request as if they had performed the work as specified in the bid. Not only did JZT Utilities cheat and defraud the City by collecting full payment for less than half the expected work, but JZT Utilities also tapped the water line from a low-pressure pipe – 2 inches. Mr. Facey (JZT Utilities), later told the project consultant (Design2Form) that the Broward County inspector had recommended tapping the water from the south side of S.W. 39th Street. Importantly, JZT Utilities authorized Broward County to perform the tap for it. A copy of JZT Utilities’ check to the County clearly states that the payment was for a “Water tap” – work that is part of JZT Utilities’ construction scope of work.
JZT Utilities subsequently requested Design2Form to authorize reimbursement from the City for the cost of work performed by Broward County. Design2Form declined to approve the reimbursement and told JZT Utilities that the City should be issued a credit from the $15,000 instead based on JZT Utilities having performed less than ½ the work. Design2Form made it clear to JZT Utilities that the work was not performed in accordance with the contract. At that time, JZT Utilities had already been paid $9,720 from the $15,000 line item for “Water & Sewer (including backflow preventer cage)”. After tapping the water line, JZT Utilities was contracted, as a part of the $15,000, to install a 2-inch water line with backflow preventer; instead, JZT Utilities installed a 1-inch backflow preventer and covered the water line installed with asphalt before the work could be inspected to verify if the water line was 2 inches as required.
JZT Utilities was paid the full amount of the project, including the $15,000 for the referenced line item. JZT did not issue a credit for tapping the water line from the south side of the road rather than the north side of the road as required by the bid; nor for installing a low-pressure water line; nor for installing a 1-inch backflow preventer rather than a 2-inch preventer as required; nor for not installing a sewer line.
ADDITIONAL CONTRACTED WORK THAT JZT UTILITIES DID NOT PERFORM
As part of JZT Utilities’ scope of work, a spigot (hose bibb) was required to be installed with the water fountain. A hose bibb is a faucet located on the exterior of the fountain, in this case. The hose bibb was not installed, but JZT Utilities billed for the work as if the installation was performed. JZT Utilities was also contracted to construct a sidewalk along the south side of SW 39th Street, towards the entrance to the Park. JZT Utilities only performed a portion of the sidewalk installation and never issued a credit for the portion of work not performed.
Regarding the false statement about water contamination concerns raised in the article, “How West Park’s Financial Shenanigans Hurt a Small Business”, the backflow preventer was a part of the original contract and was an added measure to the originally designed backflow that was installed at the new water service tap. Since JZT Utilities did not install a secondary backflow preventer, the City’s plumbing inspector asked JZT to install the backflow and JZT was paid for the installation of the backflow preventer.
CITY OF WEST PARK HELPS JZT UTILITIES, INC.
In the Contractor’s Questionnaire portion of JZT Utilities’ proposal, they claimed to be financially able to perform the work, but after being awarded the work, JZT Utilities could not start the work due to lack of funds. In the spirit of assisting a small business, the City Manager, Ajibola Balogun, authorized JZT Utilities to be paid 75% or $22,500 of their $30,000 General Conditions line item, as capital for JZT Utilities to start the work. According to the bid form, the General Conditions line item was supposed to be billed monthly as a percentage of completion.
JZT Utilities’ inability to fund the project continued for months, such that JZT Utilities submitted multiple payment requests at three weeks apart and without submitting any release of lien. A partial release of lien is required when some portion of the sum claimed (or scope of work) is paid, but not the entire sum. A prime contractor (in this case JZT Utilities) is also required to submit a partial release of lien from sub-contractors when payment for their associated work is being requested. Again, in the spirit of assisting a small business, Mr. Balogun authorized JZT Utilities’ multiple payment requests without releases of lien, until the City was notified by a JZT Utilities’ sub-contractor (FPL) that they did not receive payment. The City paid JZT Utilities $9,000 out of a $10,000 line item for the work FPL performed, but JZT Utilities did not pay FPL’s bill of approximately $3,800 for months.
In addition to not completing the work per the contract, JZT Utilities delayed the closing of the project by submitting a bill for an additional $55,983.95 for a list of items that are not in the contract – Mr. Facey attempted to recoup overhead expenses and other costs that he said were “inclusive” in his June 27, 2018 letter. At the request of JZT Utilities, the parties mediated the dispute to bring closure to this matter.
After the opportunity and extensive assistance the City gave to JZT Utilities, it is a shame that JZT Utilities made false statements in the article, “How West Park’s Financial Shenanigans Hurt a Small Business” published on June 29, 2020. Not only is the entire article false, it was published without being fully vetted because the reporter did not talk to any representative of the City nor obtain any record of the project from the City, before publishing. Equally inaccurate are the insensitive comments of certain individuals on social media who have continued the spreading of these malicious, false rumors without doing any research into this matter.
Ajibola W. Balogun may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org