Fort Myers Beach enters into $538,000 agreement to build department services | News, Sports, Jobs – Fort Myers
Andy Hyatt, Fort Myers City Beach Director, has entered into a $538,000 contract with Jacobs Project Management to provide building inspection and permitting services, and assist with the city’s Office of Planning and Community Development. The hiring could lead to a major shift in the way the city’s building, planning and permitting department is run.
Hyatt briefed the City Council this week on the new agreement with the company, whose project manager John Dolmer currently serves as community development director for the city of Bonita Springs, and whose appointment is expected to lead to a broader role for the company in the city of Fort Myers Beach.
Hyatt entered into a $538,000 contract with the company on October 27 even though the Fort Myers City Beach Council did not vote on the contract. The contract amount of $538,000 will be sent to the city as a lump sum on an annual basis. Hyatt privately discussed contract negotiations with the company in conversations with council members prior to signing the contract. Hyatt had previously informed the City Council of his plans to reconstitute the Planning and Permitting Department. A message left with Fort Myers Beach City Attorney Becky Voss about whether the council needed to approve the contract was not returned.
Hayat said that the company will bring two inspectors to inspect the buildings, and the first inspector conducted 27 building inspections on his first day. “We will have internal reviewers of the plan.” Hayat said. “I think it was a smooth transition that no one noticed.”
Dolmer, who appeared from the City Council during Thursday’s management and planning session, said he is in talks with Hyatt about building management services. “We’ve started bringing in inspectors on a temporary basis just to start inspections and get things moving. We’re currently trying to staff that department so that way we can bring in full building officials, building inspectors, planning review and permitting techniques. Whatever might come with planning review and permitting inspections.”
Hyatt said the company will bring to the town a new building official and three technicians who specialize in permits. “They will have the city logo on their shirts so no one will know if they are contractors or not.” Hayat said. The city currently has four permit technicians.
Fort Myers Beach Deputy Mayor Jim Atterholt asked Hyatt about the new additions to city staff, referring to them as “Adding significant resources to the licensing process.” Hyatt said the city will also continue to work with existing outside contractors, Axis Companies.
Atterholt expects there to be a shift from Axis to Jacobs Project Management Company in the future.
Atterholt said “I know we extended the contract with the entity on the East Coast for continuity purposes as we transition, but once that phases out, despite the services that they provide that will be replaced by the Jacobs group, it looks like it’s still there and apart from that, the additional resources are coming into The city is on the permitting front.”
Hyatt said the company’s employees will be based in Bonita Springs. After Hurricane Ian, the state was also providing assistance to staff handling permit review although that relationship ended in March after the state withdrew its staff.
Dulmer has been with Bonita Springs for more than a dozen years, and he said Jacobs Project Management currently handles most of Bonita Springs’ construction and planning services. “Jacobs handled this entire department, which includes long-range planning, zoning, engineering, construction, all of those services that we provide.” Dolmer said.
Dolmer said he will not be hired at Fort Myers Beach as a full-time employee though “You’ll have a full-time staff based here. These will be Jacobs employees who will report to me through the chain of command.”
Jacobs Project Management also provides consulting services in the Atlanta area and beyond Denver, as well as the Florida Turnpike, Dolmer said.
City staff has undergone significant revisions and new hires over the past year since the firing of former City Manager Roger Herrnstadt and more recently under Hyatt.
Questions from the Fort Myers Beach Observer about the contract with Hyatt, including how the company was selected, were referred to Town of Fort Myers Beach Communications Director Jennifer Dexter. Dexter didn’t respond.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers has identified the city’s permitting process as a top priority. Allers did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how Jacobs Project Management would define its new role.
According to a copy of the partially executed contract, the company will also build the city on a monthly basis for additional time and materials although it was not clear what services the city would be billed for. The contract states that additional building permit plan reviews or building permit inspections requested by the city manager will be billed to the city at a rate of $127 per hour.
The city has been contracting with Axis Companies for years, employing consultants Jason Green and Sarah Probst as planners who are hired as contractors for the planning and permit review processes. The company also provides other resources to the city in addition to the city’s planning and building department. Earlier this year, they recommended denial of the controversial lakeside wandering special exception permit proposed by Ed Rudd and Kurt Cromer, which they said was inconsistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. The city council overruled their advice.
The city recently overhauled its planning department, moving Steve Boboski from chief of community services to city engineer. Boboski earns a salary of $132,839.
The city has appointed Frank Kropacek, director of operations and compliance, as interim head of the renamed Community Services Department of Community Development. Kropacek, who was hired by the town earlier this year as contracts manager, earns a salary of $121,000.
Atterholt asked Kropacek at Monday’s meeting how the new arrangement with Jacobs’ project management group would work structurally. “Who should people look to here on the island if they have concerns?”
Kropacek said “We always ask that you reach out to me first. That’s how we like to handle it within the company. We don’t want to burden the Jacobs when they come on board. There’s a lot of things that we have staff in-house, our current staff, and they’re very aware of our unique situation here on the beach.
The City Council also talked Monday about resuming meetings between city employees and contractors that began unofficially earlier this year and were halted over concerns about potential violations of the state’s open meeting laws. The meetings were secret and without prior notice to the public.
The new contract with the company that handles planning and zoning matters in Bonita Springs comes on the heels of a proposal announced last month by State Rep. Adam Botana (R-Bonita Springs) to merge the city’s fire district with Bonita Springs.