Rebuilding after Ian: A News-Press Article

The Law Offices of John Caravella, P.C. does not own this content. This content was created by Kate Cimini, and was published to New-Press on Jan 23rd, 2023.

When Hurricane Ian pummeled Southwest Florida’s coastline and barrier islands, it knocked out some of the region’s most important infrastructure: the bridges and causeways that connected places like Sanibel, Pine Island and Matlacha to the mainland.

While the bridges, rebuilt to updated codes in recent memory, fared well, access to them was impacted when the storm washed the land around them away. Without these byways, island residents were stranded, unable to flee and unable to get fresh food, water or gasoline, unless they had access to a boat.

Just days after the hurricane, Gov. Ron DeSantis was in town promising help.

According to a response to a records request by The News-Press / Naples Daily News, so far, the state has spent $32,138,470 in construction costs and an additional $11,152,805 in paving for the various bridges and access roads. That included a temporary bridge to Matlacha, which was built within days for $5.4 million, reopening access for residents. Repairs to the Sanibel Causeway took longer and were more expensive.

The causeway was open to residents by Oct. 19, costing the state $23.3 million in construction repairs paid to Superior-de Moya and an additional $5.1 million to Ajax in paving costs.

Just under another $3 million was spent on repairs to bridges in the Lovers Key area.

The work is still ongoing, and according to contracts provided to The News-Press / Naples Daily News in response to a records request to the Florida Department of Transportation, two companies are responsible for carrying out the contracted work.

Here’s what we know so far about the contracts:

The state’s Department of Transportation creates emergency response contracts annually, so when an actual emergency happens, preapproved vendors are already in place.

“With these types of contracts, pricing for materials is predetermined by current market rates,” said FDOT Deputy Communications Director Michael Williams. “Also, given the nature of emergency contracts, the amount of and type of work cannot be predetermined.”

Williams said the contracts are monitored by the department “to ensure work is performed properly, meets expectations, and is done expeditiously.”

These contracts use public funds, and the department seeks federal reimbursements when applicable, Williams said.

In July, after an evaluation process, two contracts were signed by the department: one with Superior-de Moya, a partnership between Tampa- and Miami-based construction companies Superior Construction and The de Moya Group, and a second with Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, LLC of Venice.

Three companies made the shortlist for a contract, reaching a final evaluation stage. In addition to Superior-de Moya and Ajax Paving, Johnson Bros, a Lithia-based general contractor was in the running as well. However, only Superior-de Moya and Ajax Paving were awarded final contracts, ranking higher than Johnson Bros in evaluations.

All three companies were evaluated by DOT Chief Engineer Dan Hurtado, as well as Barstow office District Director of Transportation Development John Kubler and District 1 Construction Engineer Jonathan Sands.

While the contracts were drafted in July, the transportation department only signed them Sept. 27, the day before the hurricane landed. Ajax and Superior-de Moya have been on-site since the hurricane cleared out of Southwest Florida.

Broken down by company, Superior-de Moya has so far been paid for the following construction projects:

  • Emergency/Temporary Pine Island access: $5,450,750
  • Lovers Key:
    • Big Carlos Pass: $1,352,580
    • Little Carlos Pass: $564,870
    • New Pass: $994,150
    • Big Hickory Pass: $408,620

And Ajax has been tasked with the following paving or repair projects:

  • General roadway repair necessary due to washouts and drainage issues caused by Hurricane Ian, 70 different projects
    • 6 projects underway
    • 9 nearing completion
    • 55 complete: no dollar amount was made available by FDOT
  • Permanent Pine Island: Contract $5,965,289

According to the Department of Transportation, due to the complexity of the Sanibel Island Causeway repair, Ajax and Superior – de Moya executed a separate phased design build.

Ajax received  $5,187,516 for its contribution to the temporary causeway repair, and Superior – de Moya received $23,367,500 in state monies.

Final construction phases of the Sanibel Causeway are still underway; the final costs have yet to be determined.

John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: [email protected] or (631) 608-1346.

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The Law Offices of John Caravella, P.C. does not own this content. This content was created by Kate Cimini, and was published to New-Press on Jan 23rd, 2023.