The group of about 25 people making its way through Siesta Village under threatening skies shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, seemed to spark little curiosity from passersby, but someone out of that group more than likely will be taking over the Village maintenance in coming weeks.
About 15 members of the group were vendors or vendor representatives vying for the one-year contract for that upkeep — and taking over a job the county has had since Aug. 16, 2011.
The tall gentleman with the military bearing at the head of that procession was Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations for the county’s Public Works Department. Perhaps no one will be happier than Maroney when a vendor is hired, as it has been his responsibility these past months to make certain county staff kept the Village looking neat and clean.
“I’m looking forward to it very much,” he told me, speaking of his coming relief from that oversight.
The request for proposals for the maintenance contract had been expected to go out before the end of 2011. However, continuing efforts to improve operations in the county’s Procurement Department — and continuing turnover in that department — delayed the RFP. It finally appeared on the county’s new eProcure website just after midnight on May 31.
It was Maroney’s idea June 21 to take the vendor group through every part of Siesta Village included in the maintenance package. “We just want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding,” he told me as the folks gathered by ones and twos for the mandatory 9 a.m. pre-bid meeting.
As of June 22, it appeared 26 people other than members of the news media had registered on the eProcure site as potential bidders for the project, so apparently some of the firms decided not to get involved after all.
That group of 26 represented a lot of diversity — from a firm that handles the landscaping for Jungala at Busch Gardens in Tampa and the World of Golf in St. Augustine, to one that has references from the City of Orlando and Orlando International Airport, to mom-and-pop-type operations. They’re based in-state and out-of-state.
James Scheidel, the county procurement analyst in charge of the Siesta project, reminded everyone before the walk-through began that any questions about the project had to be submitted by 5 p.m. June 27.
Following the tour of the Village, Scheidel and Maroney hosted a Q&A in the County Commission Chambers at the Administration Building on Ringling Boulevard.
Russell Matthes, president of the Siesta Key Village Association, did lodge an objection to the choice of that venue after Scheidel announced it.
“That makes no sense at all,” Matthes said, adding that it would seem far better to have people ask questions on-site.
Sheidel replied that the decision was made to use the Commission Chambers so the vendors would have plenty of space to gather.
Scheidel told me he had not known ahead of time how many people would show up for the pre-bid conference.
That Q&A ended up lasting only about 40 minutes, even though Scheidel had reserved the chambers until 1 p.m. — just to make sure ample time was available for queries.
“The questions were rather innocuous,” Maroney told me.
Among his comments during the hour-long walk, Maroney told the vendors they or their representatives needed to come back to the Village at least one more time after June 27, because the annual plants would go in that day.
Maroney added that they would be provided a list of all the types of flowers and plants county officials expected to see in the Village.
Bids on the maintenance contract are due by 2:30 p.m. July 11, Scheidel reminded everyone. Those bids will be opened and read aloud in the Procurement Department on the third floor of the Administration Building beginning at that time, he said.
After that session, Scheidel told me, county officials will begin the process of determining a recommendation on the winning bid, to present to the County Commission.
Smith, Matthes and other representatives of Siesta organizations — as well as some of the county commissioners — have voiced worries about the amount of the final bid, as county staff had estimated the cost at $200,000 a year. Smith has been adamant that that amount is too high.
By the way, Smith was non-too-pleased with some of the sights he took in as he and Matthes followed the group of vendors on the walk-through. “There is an incredible amount of trash and weeds in the landscaping,” Smith said, as the group approached Davidson Plaza on the west side of Ocean Boulevard.
With about two-and-a-half weeks to go, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce is busily reminding people about the VIP picnic on the Fourth of July, with those prized parking passes at Siesta Public Beach.
Chamber Executive Director Kevin Cooper told me earlier this week, “We’re kind of just right around where we were last year” at this time with ticket sales.
“We’re hoping for a strong finish,” he added.
The chamber picks up all the $35,000 cost of the big fireworks show on the beach for the Fourth. No grant funds help with the project. And that is why those VIP ticket sales are so important.
For $150, a couple gets not only the parking pass, but also the opportunity to enjoy delicious picnic fare, beer and wine and figurative front-row seats for the fireworks.
Earlier this month, Don Damron, the senior fire plans reviewer and inspector for the Sarasota County Fire Department, told members of the Siesta Key Association that the Siesta show shoots off bigger fireworks than the bayfront show in downtown Sarasota.
“Size does matter,” Damron said, drawing laughter from the audience of the June 7 SKA meeting.
The chamber also is partnering with the Manasota Track Club again this year to host the second Firecracker 5K, which will raise additional funds for the fireworks spectacular.
The 1-mile fun run and the 5K will be held on June 30 on Siesta Public Beach. Registration will begin at 6:30 a.m. for the 5K, which will start at 7:15 a.m.
The cost is $15 for SKCC and track club members who preregister, or $20 the day of the race. For non-members, the fee is $25 per person.
Cooper said the Manasota Track Club representatives with whom he has been working have told him that registration is pretty much on pace with what they would expect at this point. A lot of people sign up the day of the race, he added.
Last, but certainly not least, the chamber also is selling tickets for anyone interested in pressing the plunger to start the Fourth fireworks show. Those tickets are $5 each, or five for $20.
Referring to that contest, Cooper told members of the SKVA during their meeting this month, “It was a real big hit last year.”
For more information, stop by the chamber office in Davidson Plaza on Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village; call 349-3800 or visit the website.
Saluting the troops
To honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces for the sacrifices they make, the Siesta Key Oyster Bar in Siesta Village will hold a “traditional backyard grill out” on July Fourth, the restaurant has announced.
“It is because of those in the military that Americans are able to celebrate Independence Day in freedom and safety,” a SKOB news release points out.
In fact, the son of one of SKOB’s owners is serving in Afghanistan.
Guests on the Fourth will be invited to sign a large banner that will be sent to the 214th Combat Brigade after the holiday.
Additionally, a percentage of the proceeds from SKOB’s sales on the Fourth of grilled quarter-pound hot dogs, BBQ chicken drumsticks and Italian sausages will go toward providing goody packages to the troops.
For more information, call 346-5443; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit SKOB on Facebook.