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CDD Hires New Landscaping Company; Finalizes 2015 Budget

Convening on Aug. 25, Westchase CDD supervisors accepted a new bid for common area maintenance from Davey Tree, allowing supervisors to finalize their 2015 budget – and Westchase homeowners’ assessments.

The session represented a continuation of the Westchase Community Development District’s (CDD) Aug. 5 public budget hearing. The additional meeting in August was scheduled to permit supervisors to finalize their landscaping bid process and incorporate actual rather than estimated maintenance costs into their 2015 spending plan.

According to District Manager Andy Mendenhall, 11 landscaping companies recently picked up the district’s bid specifications, five submitted answers to the district’s pre-qualification questionnaire and four were judged qualified to bid. Bids of qualified companies were opened Aug. 11. The lowest bidder was Davey Tree at $726,159. That bid represents a decrease of $18,111, a 2.4 percent reduction over the current contract. Luke Brothers bid $781,230 and LMP bid $817,260 for the same work. Current contract holder Mainscape offered a bid of $939,034.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick informed supervisors that under state law they were required to select the lowest responsive, qualified bidder. The only alternatives were to keep the current contractor at the current price or throw all the bids out and begin the bid process again.

“If the board feels comfortable with Davey Tree, you should move forward with them,” stated District Manager Andrew Mendenhall.

A motion to do so was offered and the floor opened to comments. Three of the four bidders had representatives present and Adam Smith, Mainscape’s representative, stood. “We fully understand what it takes to perform work on your property,” he stated. Smith added that he believed Mainscape’s number reflected the accurate cost of doing the job.

Supervisors subsequently passed the motion to accept Davey Tree’s bid unanimously. While CDD staff will check if both Mainscape and Davey Tree are amenable to starting the new contract Oct. 1, the official start of new contract is Nov. 1.

Ragusa thanked Smith and Mainscape, praising the company’s performance over the past three years. He closed by offering to write a letter of recommendation for the company should it want one.

Supervisors then turned to finalizing their budget. With the landscaping bid clarifying actual maintenance costs, they removed $108,000 in funds budgeted for the previously expected increase in landscaping costs. CDD Supervisor Bob Argus, however, wanted to go further. Pointing to the $400,000 budgeted in parks and recreation to bring Westchase’s parks into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, Argus stated, “Some of the feedback I’ve gotten is the increase in the parks is excessive.”

Argus added that since the work likely wouldn’t occur before mid-2015, the district could cut the amount by $200,000.

CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, however, stated that he’d actually had some residents send him e-mails that the district shouldn’t do any park improvements to make them compliant. “I don’t think that’s prudent,” he stated.

Ragusa added that while he didn’t think costs for the work would hit amounts predicted by the CDD’s engineer, who estimated $1.2-1.5 million, he supported keeping the parks line budgeted for $400,000. He added it was likely the district would have to finance the work and the initial funds were justified.

“I think the number should stay at $400,000,” said CDD Supervisor Brian Ross. “I’ve only gotten one complaining e-mail about our budget.”

With the budget seeing no further cuts, supervisors ultimately voted unanimously to pass it.

After their recent Aug. 5 meeting (but prior to the bid opening), the district projected that Westchase homeowners would see an operations and maintenance assessment of $524.38, an increase of almost 32.24 percent over last year’s $396.01 assessment. That increase was largely driven by the then expected 15-20 percent increase in landscaping costs and the $400,000 increase budgeted for parks.

With the actual costs for landscaping added to the budget and the excess removed, Severn Trent accountant Alan Baldwin estimated that the finalized operations and maintenance assessment for each Westchase home should be $493.24, about $30 less than previously estimated. With the change, district operations and maintenance assessments will rise from $396.01 in 2014 to $493.24, an increase of 25 percent.

The operations and maintenance assessment represents the total CDD assessment for Radcliffe and homes in non-gated neighborhoods off Countryway Boulevard; Berkeley Square’s is lower. Harbor Links/The Estates, The Enclave and Saville Rowe have an additional neighborhood-specific assessment covering costs associated with its gates, roads and streetlights. The rest of non-gated Westchase villages have debt service payments in addition to the operations and maintenance charge. Meanwhile West Park Village and eastern gated villages such as The Greens, Stockbridge, Woodbridge and The Vineyards pay the operations and maintenance charge, debt service charges and charges specific to their neighborhoods’ gates and roads (or alleys and street lights in the case of West Park Village).

Please click here to view the finalized assessment tables and click here to view the finalized budget.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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