Few places illustrate South Florida's housing bust better than Pembroke Pines. A few years ago, it was one of the nation's fastest-growing cities, with a population that more than ballooned from 65,500 in 1990 to 147,000 in 2007. Now, thanks to a multimillion-dollar drop in permit revenue from new construction, the city has axed its building department. The job of reviewing plans and inspecting wiring, drainage, and other building essentials has been outsourced to a Fort Lauderdale firm, Calvin, Giordano & Associates.
This is troubling, not just for the 33 city workers who have lost their jobs, but also for those of us who worry about little things like conflicts of interest. Calvin, Giordano already does engineering work for the city of Pembroke Pines. The company's most recent project, approved in May, was a $2.7 million contract to overhaul the city's waste-water treatment system. Another big-ticket job the firm snagged was planning and surveying land for the City Center project-- an 80-acre housing and shopping center that the city invested $66 million in, but is now trying to unload because of the real estate bust.
Can Calvin, Giordano really be objective when reviewing building plans for projects that could also pad its pocketbook? The Juice called City Manager Charles Dodge to inquire, but his secretary said he's on vacation until next week. I'm sure that's a great comfort to all the former building inspectors who are now looking for a vacation from unemployment.
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