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Shores appears to have deep-sixed water consultant

(Week of December 9, 2010)

After searing criticism from residents and the county over how the Town of Indian River Shores used the same water-and-sewer consultant as Vero Beach as it grappled with whether to cast its future with the City or the County, the Shores appears to have taken GAI Consultants off its payroll.

A workshop last month, which brought Shores, Vero and County officials together, netted some common-sense suggestions about rates and dates that could ultimately result in much-improved contracts with either Vero Beach or the County. Three ShoresTown Council members scolded GAI for not making it clear that they also intended to work for the City of Vero Beach.

Since then, according to the Shores, no Town representative has met with GAI Consultants in person or spoken to them on the telephone. GAI has not sent any more invoices since one sent in October for services through Oct. 16.

GAI has also not submitted a proposal for future services. No more money above the initial $25,000 has been approved to pay GAI for services. 

GAI is also working for the City of Vero Beach on an $85,000 contract for advice on water and sewer issues.

For the Shores, GAI was working on Phase I of a proposal with the door left open for future phases, including the negotiation of a sale and handling the actual closing and transition.

Is there a plan for a Phase 2 or Phase 3?

“No, the next phase is not yet determined.  We’re waiting to hear from the County,” was the Town Clerk’s email response, relaying information from Shores Town Manager Richard Jefferson.

The Shores has asked the County to submit a bid for the Town’s business.

The County’s draft response is pretty clear on what needs to happen.

It lays out two issues that need to be resolved prior to the County bidding to serve the Shores.

“The first issue concerns the conflict of interest, which now exists with the consultant, which presently represents both the Shores and the City (of Vero Beach). The County would hope that that conflict could soon be resolved so that both parties, the City and the County, could begin negotiations on a level playing field,” stated the letter penned by County Commission Chair Bob Solari.

Also, the County has formally requested permission from Mayor Jay Kramer and the Vero Beach City Council to negotiate with Shores on how it could succeed Vero in providing the town with water and sewer services -- up to and including the early termination of the Vero franchise with the Shores prior to the Oct. 31, 2016 end date.

GAI had recommended that the Town sign on with Vero for another 30 years, despite the fact that ratepayers have seen no financial analysis showing any projections of what water and sewer rates would be going forward.

To make all if this even more complex, the new Vero Beach City Council is interested in taking another look at the feasibility of consolidating water and sewer systems with the County.

Has the Shores officially terminated its relationship with GAI over the consulting firm’s apparent conflict of interest in also advising the City of Vero Beach, and GAI’s mishandling of proposals sent to Vero and the County?

No, not officially, according to the Town.

But sources say that GAI is finished with the Town of Indian River Shores.

The lack of contact over the past four weeks would appear to be confirmation.