FORT LAUDERDALE—Broward County's first chunk of federal stimulus money will go to a former Miami Dolphins player's construction company, to rebuild ramps at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The county had to scramble to get it.
President Obama's administration to spur public works projects and help the ailing economy. But projects had to be ready to proceed by mid-June in order to qualify.
So the county expedited the bidding process. County bids take an average of 200 days to complete County Purchasing Director Brenda Billingsley said, but her staff rushed the airport project through in 60. Nine bids were received, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson's Fort Lauderdale company submitted the lowest.
Without the aid, the renovations would have been paid with the fees charged to airlines based at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, their passengers and concessions at the airport.
"This was needed and I don't know how soon it would have gotten done because of the runway and other necessary work," Aviation Director Kent George said. "We saw the opportunity for the stimulus money, and it was perfect because we could speed it up to get it done."
The grant from the Federal Aviation Administration follows a setback the county suffered earlier this year on stimulus help. The county was passed over for a share of $168 million distributed across Florida to help local governments improve energy efficiency and start conservation projects.
This time, the county received $5.7 million to replace 20-year-old pavement around the D, E and F concourses to improve airline safety. D. Stephenson Construction bid $4.4 million for the job, about $2 million less than the airport expected to spend.
Both George and the project manager at D. Stephenson said the lower cost was in part due to the current business climate.
"Subcontractors are hungry and you are getting premium work at better prices," said Traves Knowles of D. Stephenson.
The rest of the grant will go toward county oversight and construction testing work.
Knowles said about 100 people will be at work on the job at its height. He expects work to begin by early July.
The 17-year-old firm's work has included other renovations at the airport as well as school, library and hospital construction.
Campaign finance records list Stephenson as a contributor to Obama's campaign, but he also was appointed in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
While the project is the first for Broward County government to win stimulus money, the Obama administration earlier agreed to earmark $41.5 million to build a flyover on Dixie Highway between Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton at the behest of regional transportation planners. County officials also said the Sheriff's Office received $881,000 in stimulus money for its program to fight Internet crimes against children.
Scott Wyman can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4511.