Siesta Village maintenance contract awarded

No date yet on when firm will start work

The gazebo, located at the intersection of Canal Road and Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village, is included in the maintenance responsibilities for the Village. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Almost exactly a year and a week after Sarasota County took over maintenance of Siesta Village, the County Commission on Aug. 21 unanimously approved awarding a new contract for that work to Championship Landscape Maintenance Professionals of Fort Myers.

The annual contract — with automatic renewal for two, additional one-year terms — is for $97,417.70.

Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the county’s Public Works Department, told The Sarasota News Leader on Aug. 21 that he was uncertain when Championship would begin work. Staff had proceeded with a requisition order, he said, and had asked the Procurement Department to schedule a “kick-off” meeting with Championship, county staff and Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp.

Smith told the News Leader said he was pleased with the selection of Championship, which also handles maintenance of the Longboat Key Club. He had conveyed his sentiments to Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on Siesta, he added.

“I told her it was a good bid,” he said, “and complimented staff” on the handling of the request for proposals for a new contractor.

“I hear they do a great job,” Patterson said of Championship in an interview with the News Leader.

Patterson said on Aug. 22 that she also was pleased the bid “was lower than staff was expecting.”

However, she said, the county would be billing the Maintenance Corp. for some of the responsibilities it has had in handling the maintenance. Referring to Smith, she said, “He understands that.”

JWM Management of Sarasota, the only vendor hired for the Siesta Village upkeep prior to Championship, did not bid on the new contract.

Siesta Village property owner Chris Brown filed suit against the county on Jan. 31 2011, alleging in part that the county was assessing too high a tax for the Village maintenance. Brown claimed in the suit that JWM’s bills were too high for some of its work and that the county should be handling the upkeep.

That part of Brown’s lawsuit has not been resolved. However, it did lead to a Feb. 21 revision of the county ordinance governing the upkeep.

Smith told the News Leader this week he also had reservations about the amount of assessment property owners were paying.

About $217,000 was being raised from the special taxing district this year, he said, though Championship’s bid was under $98,000. “So I’m looking for a breakdown [in county expenses for the maintenance] to justify the other $100,000 …”

In December 2011, Smith requested county staff provide him with a quarterly report showing all the expenses related to the Village upkeep, he added, but he never had received any documentation.

With county staff having taken over the maintenance after JWM’s contract expired on Aug. 15, 2011, he said, staff should have sufficient records to show total annual expenses.

“All I’m asking for is some transparency,” Smith added.

Patterson told the News Leader that request “is perfectly reasonable.”

An Aug. 21 memo to the County Commission from James K. Harriott Jr., the county’s director of public works, points out that staff’s estimate of the “probable annual maintenance cost was [$200,000]. This estimate is based on the initial year’s staff estimate ($134,000) as well as the real expenditures from [Fiscal Year 2011, which were $206,729] and FY12 year-to-date ($136,000).”

The memo adds, “The annual budgeted operating costs and assessments will be reduced beginning in FY14. Any existing fund balance will be used to reduce assessments for FY14.”

Altogether, seven firms bid on the new Siesta Village maintenance contract. A separate memo provided from Maroney to the County Commission in advance of the Aug. 21 meeting notes that the low bidder, Max Power Washing Inc., was not considered qualified to receive the contract. That firm had bid $78,390.

The July 20 memo says Maroney and other county staff members visited a condominium complex on Siesta Key that Max Power Washing had listed as a reference and had discovered “scant landscaping, an asphalt parking area and concrete patios. The facility consisted of three buildings with an office for room rentals occupying a relatively small footprint. This facility did not have the enhancements or structures consistent with the [maintenance] district or what a reasonable person would consider a resort.”

(Smith has pointed out on that the request for proposals underscored that Siesta Village should have the quality of maintenance befitting a resort area.)

The memo added that Max Power Washing also did not have an appropriate pesticide applicator license, as required by the bid.

On the other hand, Maroney wrote in the memo, he had contacted the golf course superintendent of the Longboat Key Club who had “confirmed that Championship … has provided longtime and extremely satisfying work for the club.”

Maroney added that “the grounds of the Longboat Key Club [are] comparable to the Siesta Key Village including decorative lighting, trees, and substantial landscaped beds. … We believe that the scope of the services provided to the club aligns with what Sarasota County intends in the bid.”

According to Harriott’s Aug. 21 memo, the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. “will oversee the contract [with Championship], verify completion of the work, pre-approve invoices, and be the preliminary arbiter of disputes.”