BY MARCY SHORTUSE - A special meeting of the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority meeting was held Thursday afternoon, Dec. 6, to discuss a protest lodged by the low-bidding construction company on the swing bridge project. They also received counsel on how they should proceed in response to the protest.
The bid contract between the bridge authority and the bidders gave them the right to reject the bids unless they, GIBA, acted unfairly or illegally. The board rejected all bids based on the grounds that all bidders gave only a 75 percent completion figure. That was all, at the time, that the board requested.GLM, the low bidder, contested the rejection saying that it was capricious, and that there was no reason to reject the bid.
After the board made the decision to reject all bids on November 2, they released all the documents to the public. GLM argued it put them at a disadvantage, claiming that their competitors could see their pricing and low bid.
Susan Shiruti, an attorney with Bryant Miller Olive, is on vacation in the area and volunteered her time to GIBA to look over the paperwork and to give her opinion as a construction lawyer.
As of press time no decision had been reached about how to proceed.
The newly-formed GIBA audit committee had its first meeting earlier in the day, and the members discussed a rough draft of their charter. The meeting included GIBA Chairman David Hayes, ExecutiveDirector Jim Cooper, Drew Tucker and Steven Kaeffer. Ginger Watkins was also present at the meeting by phone.
GIBA has never had an audit committee before.
The board’s financial advisor, Bill Holmberg, said the committee would act as “another pair of eyes” for the board.
Tucker mentioned in the meeting that he was curious about a cash amount of more than $1 million in one of the Authority’s accounts, and said that anyone with an hour to kill could make a spreadsheet and puzzle over the amounts. Watkins said she, too, was aware of an account held by GIBA with “millions of dollars” in it.Holmberg explained.
“The purpose of raising toll rates was to raise cash availability for the project,” he said. “We have requirements under our line of credit that Kathy (Banson-Verrico, GIBA’s executive assistant) has been sticking to to avoid stiff penalties.”
Holmberg also said when construction costs were paid in cash, they were usually paid in large lump sums. That would explain why there could be so much cash in an account one day, and it would be gone the next.
Hayes said that since the board had passed a motion that he would be a secondary signer on all checks issued by GIBA, as far as oversight, things had gone quite smoothly.
Holmberg said the board generally runs at $500,000 to $800,000 in cash in the bank, and that any excess beyond that was dedicated to capital purposes.
The board also enjoyed one of the last bullet points in the charter which read that audit committee members should “exercise healthy skepticism” when it came to questions about finances.
They all agreed they would have no problem doing that.
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