By AL CALLOWAY
Back in April 2013, a well-established African American development firm won the bid to build fifteen houses for the Lauderhill Housing Authority (LHA). It took until June 10, 2014 for the LHA to execute a legal agreement with WWA Development, LLC., of Fort Lauderdale, which called for work to begin immediately.
Just two months into the job, LHA stopped all work on the project to deliberate if WWA should be required to obtain a performance bond. This should not have been an issue because no performance bond requirement was part of the signed agreement. Finally – believe this or not – in March of 2015, LHA dropped the performance bond issue and ordered work to resume.
In the interim, LHA found that they actually did not own one of the properties and both parties mutually agreed to build fourteen instead of fifteen houses. By November of 2015, after constructing two homes, WWA was ordered by LHA to not build any more homes until the two finished ones were sold. This, too, came out of nowhere, just something authorities at LHA made-up; it constitutes no part of the signed agreement.
Please stay with me on this, because we are dealing with a critical issue here. We are dealing with black economic development utilizing taxpayers dollars to provide affordable housing for qualified first time homebuyers. At the same time these new homes help to revitalize a deteriorating inner city neighborhood and add to the city’s tax base. And a qualified African American builder gets work, employs a lot of people, and makes a profit.
Be mindful that before wining the bid, WWA had to spend time and resources to attend meetings and develop a proposal complete with estimates and other criteria defined in the LHA proposal document. All of that occurred before or during the first quarter of 2013. So up to the November 2015 forced stoppage, WWA had invested just shy of three years in the project.
At a December 8, 2015 meeting, legal counsel advised LHA that under Florida Statute 287 it could only extend the WWA agreement for another six months. In other words, goodbye, there’s no way the remaining twelve houses can be built in that time in addition to the work stoppage. However, savvy WWA replied via a December 10, 2015 letter citing FS 287 and thereby proving that “This statute does not apply to the executed agreement between WWA and LHA.”
The McNair family has owned WWA Development, LLC., since 2009 and the construction firm, Deangelo Development, Inc., since 1985. Robert D. McNair, Jr., a general contractor, runs the company since his younger brother, Willie J. McNair, also a general contractor, died of a heart attack in 2014. They are the sons of the late Dr. Robert D. McNair, Sr., For Lauderdale’s first black optometrist. Mother, Mrs. Edna McNair, who served as a Broward Schoolboard bookkeeper for 34 years, still handles record keeping for the McNair companies.
WWA got the necessary extension on January 12, 2016 and LHA agreed for the firm to build four houses. More obstinacy ensued: LHA changed the plans for one model, which meant additional architectural fees for the new model. LHA Executive Director, Yvon Dorcinvil, refused to pay, creating a delay for that lot. Therefore, the qualified buyer that chose the new model was left without a house.
WWA started building the remaining three houses.
In a June 20, 2016 letter to Yvon Dorcinvil, WWA requested that LHA issue a Notice to Proceed and provide funding to build the remaining eight houses. Robert D. McNair, Jr., further requested that his firm be allowed to build all eight houses at the same time, which takes less time and that the contract be honored and extended for one year. McNair complained that due to all the delays caused by LHA, “WWA has not been given the opportunity to complete the contracted number of homes.”
Well, you must know by now that some legal action is coming. WWA made a final attempt to get a positive response from LHA in a December 19, 2016 letter. “WWA is requesting that the LHA honor the executed Developers Agreement to complete the 8 remaining homes.”
A few days ago WWA sued LHA. Nearly all the players involved in this sad saga are of African descent. So I ask you, how can black people make progress like this?