Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Discussion at last night's (3/1) Lake Worth City Commission meeting regarding the default declaration for the Casino construction problems

This issue will continue in Lake Worth but the good news is the parties are working to find a solution. This wouldn't have happened if the City didn't force the issue and threaten a default. To say it got the attention of a few people is an understatement. Now it comes down to getting the problems fixed at the Lake Worth Casino before the taxpayers are left to pick up the pieces along with the costs involved.

The video is not yet uploaded on the City's website but below is a video taken off a TV screen of this part of the agenda. The video quality is not the best, unlike the video I take when attending meetings, but the audio quality is very good:

This was a continuation of the City Commission agenda first addressed on 2/16 regarding the City declaring the Casino contractor, the architect and the contractor's insurance company in default. Representatives from REG and Morganti were present this time. At the last meeting only a representative from Morganti was present. The Commission ended up voting to give the "tolling agreement" more time, to March 22nd, in order to extend the time period the City could still file a lawsuit for damages, before the statute of limitations expired.

Rick Gonzalez from REG can be heard at the 3:40 mark. He talks about being chosen as the Casino building architect in 2010. The direction given to him was to "bring back the essence of the historical Casino." However, the initial direction given to all the architects who competed for the job was to "save the building." We all know that did not happen. He also says that the city got an $8 million dollar building for $6 million. Interesting.
Even the Palm Beach Post editorial board still believes the "Big Lie". The Casino wasn't "saved". It was 94% demolished. Or is that their house standard for historic preservation?
The City then hired Morganti as a general contractor with a guaranteed fixed-price contract to build the building for $6 million. It was represented by the city manager (Susan Stanton at the time) and certain others that Morganti was working in the City's interest. The truth is they were working for Morganti's interest for the cost not to exceed.the $6 million figure. There was no one looking over the shoulder of Morganti or REG about the integrity of the building and the 'value engineering' that took place to meet that price.

There should have been a professional owner's representative (in this case someone protecting the City taxpayers' and utility customers) to ensure the quality of the building for the end user. That was never done. The myth then and continues today is that Morganti was responsible for the oversight. That is part of the reason we are in the situation we are in now. It was stated last night said that the City got an $8 million building for $6 million. That $2 million had to come from somewhere. Are you beginning to understand? Now do all the problems at the Casino building make sense?

Note that Morganti does a lot of construction projects and recently completed a big project for Palm Beach County government. Do you think that officials for PBC would give a project to Morganti and then not have someone, anybody, overseeing the project paid for by county taxpayers? Of course not. But that is exactly what happened at the Casino project. Who made that decision? See image below:
The Casino business plan is a complete failure. The City now relies on parking revenue to keep the complex operational. The original plan was for the parking money to be surplus.
You should listen to the entire discussion. It sounds like there was a lot of meddling by unnamed commissioners at the time regarding accessibility requirements (go to the 10:30 mark in the video). Also discussed was its location near the ocean and the need for much more maintenance and quality of materials. This line of thought did not go over well with Commissioner Maxwell last night. There is mention of the missed opportunity for a two story restaurant (Johnny Longboats) at the 12:30 mark.

Even though Commissioner Ryan Maier was there for both commission meetings and has been a commissioner for a year now, he surprisingly thought the building opened in 2010. He was immediately corrected but for someone who was so protective of the beach and given his access to information, this sort of confusion is inexcusable. This is especially true since the flaws in the building have prevented the leasing of the second floor restaurant space which is still empty.
The second floor flooding got the attention of NBC5/WPTV last year.
This is something that ALL members of the City Commission should take seriously and be concerned about and have the correct information. Progress has been made since the last meeting and let's hope for some sort of resolution soon. And possibly we'll learn who the commissioner was back then who insisted on wood floors against the architects recommendation. Another in a long line of terrible decisions made.

One last thing: Will the lost revenue (due to the space on the second floor being unfit for occupation) be part of consideration given to Lake Worth taxpayers and City utility customers who have taken the losses thus far and going forward? Let's hope so.