Commissioner to check into timeline for awarding Siesta maintenance contract

Siesta Key Village Association members say county workers are not keeping Siesta Village looking its best. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson told members of the Siesta Key Village Association July 3 that she would find out when a recommendation on the new vendor for the Village maintenance contract could be expected to come before the County Commission for approval.

The question arose after Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., provided an update during the monthly SKVA meeting on the search for a new vendor.

The bids on the maintenance contract are scheduled to be opened at 2:30 p.m. July 11 in the county’s Procurement Department at the Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd. James Scheidel, the procurement analyst handling the project, told The Sarasota News Leader June 21 that the bids would be read aloud.

“I plan on being there,” Smith said during the SKVA meeting.

When Patterson asked whether he knew when the bid would be awarded, Smith told her, “I was going to ask you that.”

Patterson was unsure when the matter would be referred to the commission, she said, given the board’s upcoming summer recess.

The last County Commission before the break is July 16, according to the county website. However, that is a joint meeting with the North Port City Commission. After the summer recess, the next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.

“Optimistically, I was hoping it would be September” when the bid was awarded, Smith said.

Scheidel told the News Leader July 3 that after the bids had gone through the normal vetting process, and a “Notice of Recommended Award” had been posted, staff might have a better idea about when the contract would be presented to the County Commission.

County staff held a mandatory pre-bid conference and walk through Siesta Village on June 21, Smith noted during the SKVA meeting.

That conference was followed by a Q&A session at the Administration Building, Smith added. “There shouldn’t be too many questions,” he said, because the county’s request for proposals “was very well put together.”

It had details that ranged from what days the trash should be picked up to how much mulch should be in the landscaping beds (2 inches), Smith said.

In response to a question, Smith said the contract for the new vendor would be awarded for one year, with the option of a one-year renewal.

“Can they be fired if they do a bad job?” Patterson asked.

“Yes,” Smith said. If a problem arose, the vendor would have 30 days to rectify it, he said. If the problem was not resolved during that timeframe, the vendor could be dismissed.

When SKVA President Russell Matthes asked whether the invoices from the new vendor would go to the county, Smith said the Maintenance Corp. board would review them first and approve them before sending them on to the county.

Matthes said he was dismayed by he Village’s appearance during the June 21 walk-through with prospective bidders, because “it looked so bad.”

Smith said he brought up that point with county staff, who told him county workers would give the Village “a sprucing up” before the county turned over the work to the winning vendor, then staff would photograph the Village, “so they can show the bidders, ‘This is what it’s supposed to look like.’”

“If it looks like [it does now], [they’re] going to get fired,” Matthes added.

Patterson asked whether the Village at least looked better after county staff cleaned it following Tropical Storm Debby’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico last week. “I had honestly been under the impression that they had stepped up their act quite a bit,” she said of county workers handling the maintenance.

Smith likened the quality of the maintenance to the lines in a sine curve. “It comes and goes,” he said. “They’re at the bottom of the curve right now.”

Patterson told the group she specifically had requested county officials make a major effort to clean up Siesta Key after Debby’s assault, so it would look good for July Fourth visitors. “It was a wreck after the storm.”

Troy Syprett, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, said county workers had trimmed the planter at the north entrance of the Village, on Ocean Boulevard, but the storm’s rainfall had washed mulch out of most of the landscape beds.

Kay Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café, said county workers had cleaned up the storm debris.

Nonetheless, Matthes noted the Village has overgrown plants, sprouting weeds and garbage and cigarette butts along the streets.

Michael Shay, a director of the Siesta Key Association who attends SKVA meetings, pointed out that garbage pails in the Village have an insert in which plastic bags are placed. Because the bags do not fit tightly against the tops of the cans, he said, people throw in garbage that does not end up getting collected.

“Whoever’s cleaning out the bags only picks up the bags,” he added.

Matthes said he wanted to make sure the new vendor hired to handle the maintenance kept the Village looking as good as the RFP specified.

Smith responded that the RFP requires a representative of the SKVMC to walk through the Village once a month with a supervisor for the vendor, to examine the various aspects of the upkeep and point out any deficiencies.

Still waiting

On a related topic, Smith told the SKVA members that he had turned over all SKVMC receipts to county staff, so the SKVA could be reimbursed for the expenses it had incurred to help set up the Maintenance Corp. He was told, he added, that the receipts would be handed over to the Procurement Department, so the reimbursement could be processed.

Patterson pointed out that the procurement director, Mark Thiele, had resigned a couple of weeks earlier, so the department was operating without a chief.

In response to a comment that the reimbursement was about three years overdue, Patterson said, “Siesta Key gets more attention than any other area in the county, and there have been protests at the commission table that there are other parts of the county that require some attention. If you really don’t want the relationship with the county, we can go all the way back to scratch and you guys can figure out how to pay the bills. So easy.”

“I understand,” Smith said.

“We’re not trying to be over-harsh on the county or the county staff,” Syprett said. “We do recognize we get a lot of benefits out here, but we’re also one of the biggest draws.”
Syprett added that Siesta businesses contribute a lot to the county’s tourist tax and sales tax revenue.

“And I make that case for you at the County Commission level,” Patterson told him. “But I’m just saying, ‘Easy, folks.’”

Patterson added that the hold-up on the reimbursement for the Maintenance Corp. expenses partly stemmed from a disagreement over how much money county staff felt the SKVA was owed, “and that was finally worked out, so you should get a reimbursement relatively soon.”

Syprett responded that the property owners in the Village were paying a special assessment to cover the cost of the upkeep.

“And that was an agreement because the county funded the entire bill of $5 million for your renovations!” Patterson told him, referring to the 2008-09 Village beautification project.

Matthes told her the SKVA members simply were trying to bring the issues to her attention.

“I’m just saying, ‘Be gentle,’” Patterson replied.