Campaign Advisers For Mayor Dean Trantalis Now Lobbyists For Second Company Seeking To Build Fort Lauderdale Water Plant

Blake Macdiarmid, Steven Glassman and Dean Trantalis

Earlier this month, REDBROWARD exposed the roles Mayor Dean Trantalis’s campaign advisers were playing in the plans to privately build a new water treatment plant in Fort Lauderdale. During a January press conference discussing the City’s failing sewer system, Trantalis discussed plans to replace the aging Fiveash plant. Trantalis states, “several international players in the water industry have expressed an interest in a fast-tracked public-private solution that can bring more efficiency, more stable cost, guaranteed maintenance and higher water quality.” Trantalis said “we’ll see” if it is the right solution for Fort Lauderdale.

During a summer 2019 trip to Israel, Dean Trantalis met with five major Israeli investment groups for “discussions involving partnerships for major infrastructure and public works projects in Fort Lauderdale.” When detailing the finds of his trip during an October 2019 meeting of the Infrastructure Taskforce Committee (ITC), Trantalis said, “he “met with Israeli companies, Poseidon and Suez, both companies want to forward a P3 proposal regarding the water plant.”

When asked about the P3 process by a committee member, Trantalis said, “that at this it isn’t known specifically how the process of using a P3 approach will work with competitive job bidding.”

According to official meeting logs, on December 2, 2019 Mayor Dean Trantalis met with a Poseidon Water lobbyist, Stephanie Toothaker at Doc B’s restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Toothaker registered as a Poseidon Water lobbyist on November 19, 2019. One day later, Eric Johnson of Johnson Solutions registered as a Poseidon Water lobbyist. Then, on December 2, 2019, (the same day Toothaker met with Trantalis, Sorensen and Moraitis), James MacDiarmid of Layline Solutions registered as a lobbyist for Poseidon Water.

Published reports state Eric Johnson (via Johnson Strategies) represents Dean Trantalis. In his 2018 run for Mayor, Trantalis paid Johnson Campaigns $6,600 for consulting. According to State of Florida records, Johnson Campaigns is owned by Eric Johnson. City of Fort Lauderdale records show Johnson represents several clients.

While these same records show James MacDiarmid only represents one client, he is no stranger to City Hall. State records show Layline Solutions LLC was formed by twenty-one year Ian MacDiarmid in March 2019. The State records list a Miami Beach address as Layline Solutions’ place of business.

Official voter registration records show Ian MacDiarmid’s father, James Blake MacDiarmid, is registered to vote at the same Miami Beach address.

During the 2018 campaign, Blake MacDiarmid was a paid consultant for Commissioner Heather Moraitis. On November 14, 2017 Moraitis paid $10,000 to Blake MacDiarmid Inc (at the same Miami Beach address) for “professional fees.”

On his website, MacDiarmid, the self-proclaimed “mayoral whisperer,” claims to be an adviser to Dean Trantalis, Steve Glassman, Ben Sorensen and Heather Moraitis.

BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE

Now, official records show Toothaker, Johnson and MacDiarmid are registered lobbyists for Poseidon’s competition.

On Friday February 21, 2020, Stephanie Toothaker, Eric Johnson and James Blake MacDiarmid registered as lobbyists for Fort Lauderdale Water LLC at 461 From Road, Suite 400 in Paramus, New Jersey.

On February 19, 2020, Eric Johnson of Johnson Strategies registered as a lobbyist for Suez at 461 From Road Suite 400 in Paramus, New Jersey. On February 21st, Toothaker also registered as a lobbyist for Suez.

In March 2018, the Press & Journal reported how one Pennsylvania town regrets allowing Suez to control its water service. Residents of Middletown received news of an 11.5% surcharge added to water bills. “The change is not a rate hike. It is a surcharge to make up for water usage in the last three years that fell below a target in the 50-year lease with Suez.”

Middletown Council President Damon Suglia said the council in 2014 “really put this town in a long-term bind” with the lease.

“Suez knew those numbers (regarding water usage) were not realistic for us to reach in a town of our size,” Suglia said. “The borough is landlocked” and cannot grow beyond its current borders.

“Because we made an upfront payment and our investors invested in that upfront payment, there has to be a level of confidence that there is going to be adequate revenues to support the debt service and the recovery of that investment,” Kevin Chandler, vice president of Suez’s North Division told the Press & Journal.

Kevin Chandler is listed as the principal for Fort Lauderdale Water LLC.

Does Mayor Dean Trantalis care that Kevin Chandler and Suez put their investors ahead of water customers?

Does Mayor Dean Trantalis even care about Fort Lauderdale Water customers?

What happened to Poseidon Water? Did they pull out of plans to build the replacement water treatment plant?

Why did Trantalis campaign advisers switch allegiances from Poseidon to Suez/Fort Lauderdale Water? Are they lobbying for both companies?

How do Dean Trantalis campaign advisers keep getting hired by these multinational corporations seeking to build P3 projects in Fort Lauderdale?

Why did Mayor Dean Trantalis specifically mention Poseidon and Suez during the ITC meeting last year?

Doesn’t Fort Lauderdale deserve answers?

Dean Trantalis
Eric Johnson’s Johnson Strategies website lists The City of Fort Lauderdale as a a client.

Published by Tom Lauder

Covering South Florida Politics Since 2010...As Seen On: POLITICO, The Huffington Post, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, WPLG LOCAL 10 (ABC MIAMI), The New Times

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3 Comments

  1. The 2017 Reiss Engineering Report spells out what Fort Lauderdale must do to provide clean drinking water and make sure the sewer system works properly. Too bad the city didn’t follow their advice.

    The Reiss Report highlighted the inflow and infiltration problems with the sewer lines that broke in December. The 126++ million gallon sewer spill could have been avoided. This resulted in marine life being killed in miles of rivers and canals. Even the beach was closed for 48 hours.

    Concerning the Fiveash water treatment plant that provides green or yellow drinking water to 250k people (plus 3.8m in ships and cruise ships that visit Port Everglades), Reiss told Ft Lauderdale to do a GAC pilot study. Granular Activated Carbon is one method of filtering water. It is used along with lime softening, ozone, UV light, biofiltration, hydrogen peroxide, etc. The pilot study would determine which method to use to produce clean, clear water with the least amount of toxic chemicals at the lowest price.

    Did the city of Ft Lauderdale do this GAC pilot study? No. They hired an engineering company to do it but after Carollo got the $650k job, Paul Berg, the public works director at the city of Ft Lauderdale decided to “save” $150k and not do the study (Paul and his secretary got fired or quit in December).

    Carollo somehow figured that ozone wouldn’t work for our water (it does, and there’s a study proving that). They said that GAC would cost the city $130 million per year (a completely ridiculous figure – the first version of their report said $1-2m per year) so it would be cheaper to build a new $433m water treatment plant using nanofiltration and ion exchange which is more than three times as expensive to build and run than upgrading Fiveash with GAC and other technologies.

    Another problem is that the city doesn’t have $433m in their Utility Fund (they used $150m of Utility Fund money for pensions and raises) so they want to do a public/private partnership and let an outside company build and operate a new water treatment plant. Of course this private company needs to make a profit so your already high water bills are going to skyrocket.

    Even if we decide to build this outrageously expensive new water treatment plant, we still need a plan to clean up our drinking water over the next 5-10 years while it is being built. The GAC pilot study would tell us what can affordably be done THIS YEAR to give us clean water.

    Here’s what Reiss Engineering wrote on 2/6/20:

    A few notes regarding the cost conclusions related to the application and the tests:

    1. The GAC pilot recommended in the 2017 Master Plan was to define costs/feasibility of retrofitting the existing WTP versus constructing a new WTP. All of Carollo’s specific process recommendations are related to a brand new greenfield WTP. The focus herein is on the retrofit option.

    2. Regarding cost conclusions for GAC, for total organic carbon (TOC) levels in the 10-12 mg/L range, GAC by itself is likely not cost effective, consequently, many full scale and demonstration facilities with high TOC levels have preceded GAC with supplementary TOC removal processes such as ion exchange, advanced oxidative processes (AOP) combined with biofiltration, coagulation-flocculation-sedimentation, etc. In the case of retrofitting the existing WTP, an AOP would minimize infrastructure and could include combinations of ultraviolet light (UV), ozone, hydrogen peroxide, etc. The existing WTP filters would be repurposed for biofiltration/GAC polishing.

    3. While the pilot GAC performance may have been adversely affected by upstream chloramination; not sure how significant an impact this would be but the chloramination process could be moved downstream and 4-log virus inactivation requirements supplemented by the AOP. We would like to move the City away from chloramines but one step at a time.

    4. For the potential retrofit and achieving expedient color removal and taste/odor improvement, an AOP combined with the existing filters repurposed for biofiltration/GAC should be tested.

    5. Depending on the AOP utilized it is acknowledged that other byproducts, e.g., bromate, chlorite, etc., may be an issue, testing would confirm. For your enjoyment, our Chief Water Engineer Glenn Dunkelberger did a pilot study on Fiveash water for ozone for color removal in 1992 attached. Ozone removed 60% of the Fiveash raw color and promoted some further biological TOC removal. Bromate testing was limited, but showed little formation if ozone residual was avoided. There are also full scale facilities with combinations of UV/peroxide, ozone/peroxide, etc. that could be tested to minimize unwanted byproducts and extend the run life of downstream GAC.

    Recommendation: put a legitimate 4” column biofilter/GAC pilot on site, run it without chloramine residuals, and test various AOPs and the impacts to GAC breakthrough, color/TOC removal, bromate, chlorite, disinfection byproducts, etc. Calculate the resulting retrofit capital and operating costs for the City to assess.

    We need to do what Reiss said to do three years ago concerning a GAC pilot study. We didn’t listen to their advice with the sewer system. Look how that turned out.

    Contact the Fort Lauderdale city commission, the city manager and the new public works director and tell them to listen to Reiss Engineering.

    dtrantalis@fortlauderdale.gov,swyman@fortlauderdale.gov,sglassman@fortlauderdale.gov,praju@fortlauderdale.gov,bsorensen@fortlauderdale.gov,mmathews@fortlauderdale.gov,hmoraitis@fortlauderdale.gov,mconingsby@fortlauderdale.gov,rmckinzie@fortlauderdale.gov,troach@fortlauderdale.gov,clagerbloom@fortlauderdale.gov,rverma@fortlauderdale.gov

    Like

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