If no bid protests come in by Friday, July 27, the Sarasota County Commission is expected to vote Aug. 21 on the awarding of a new contract for maintenance in Siesta Village.
The county Procurement Department announced on July 23 that it was recommending the contract go to Championship Landscape Maintenance Professionals Inc. of Fort Myers, which was the second-low bidder, at $97,417.70.
The lowest bid, $78,390, was offered by Max Power Washing Inc. of Sarasota, but a note accompanying the award recommendation says Max Power Washing “did not provide all of the required qualifications and or certifications.”
Altogether, seven bids were offered for the annual contract. The highest, from Central Florida Landscaping Inc. in Tampa, was $120,982.75.
Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the county’s Public Works Department, told The Sarasota News Leader that Championship had very good references.
“They do the Longboat Key Club,” he said.
Championship’s website says it has service areas and has completed projects for clients in numerous counties, including Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Marion, Hillsborough and Hardee.
Mark Smith of Smith Architects on Siesta Key, chairman of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., told the News Leader July 23 that he had anticipated “115,000 to $125,000 would probably be a good bid.”
JWM Management, the only company that so far has had a contract for Village maintenance, was paid a base amount of $118,000 a year, Smith said.
In February, during a discussion with the County Commission, James W. Harriott Jr., the county’s director of public works, had estimated the annual work would cost slightly more than $200,000.
Sarasota County employees — overseen by Maroney — have been handling the Siesta Village maintenance since the contract expired with JWM Management on Aug. 15, 2011. A lawsuit filed against the county in 2011 by Village property owner Chris Brown claimed that company’s bills were too high. Village property owners pay a special assessment for the upkeep.
At the time he filed the suit, Brown said he felt the county should be overseeing the maintenance, because he believed that would be more economical.
Morgan Bentley of Bentley & Bruning in Sarasota, who is Brown’s attorney, told the News Leader July 24, “We are glad that the price has been brought down to more appropriate levels. We appreciate all the work the SKVMA and the county have done to get this back on the right track.”
As part of the county’s response to the lawsuit, Public Works and Procurement staff worked to amend the ordinance governing the Village upkeep.
Harriott told the County Commission almost exactly a year ago that he believed a new contractor could be hired by late 2011 to handle the maintenance. However, the 2011 scandal in the Procurement Department and a number of staff changes led to delays in preparing the request for bids for a new maintenance contract.
One reason Smith believes the bids came in lower, he told the News Leader, was that county staff decided to forgo any requirement in the bid package that the contractor handle the irrigation system that was installed as part of the county’s 2008-09 Siesta Village Beautification Project.
Because of major leaks in the system last summer, Maroney told the News Leader, county staff was wary of including the system in the bid package. He added that the only requirement for the new contractor is to inspect the irrigation system regularly and report any problems to the county.
The county has a contractor available, Maroney added, who can address any problems with the system.
Smith pointed out that the micro-watering system provides such a small flow to the plants that it is almost impossible to know a problem exists until a plant dies. Nonetheless, he said, mineral content in the water can clog the system easily.
A landscape architect had told him, Smith said, that the type of system the Village has typically has to be replaced after six years. Unfortunately, Smith said, Village representatives and county officials were unaware of that when the system was put in.
If at some point over the next couple of years the system is improved and is determined to be more reliable, Maroney said, responsibility for it could be added back as part of a future bid package for the Village upkeep.
In the meantime, Maroney said, staff was “just anxiously waiting to turn [the maintenance] over to somebody else.”
He added that staff would work closely with the contractor at the outset, to make sure the work is up to the desired standards.
“If they’re stumbling early on,” Maroney said, “we want to know about it,” so the problems can be resolved. “We want to leave nothing to chance.”