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CDD Prepares for Landscape Bid

With district’s budget preparation season in full force, Westchase CDD Supervisors discussed bidding out their landscaping contract at their June meeting.

Their current contractor, Mainscapes, has indicated it will not renew its current three-year contract for an additional year at no increase, triggering the bid process.

The June 3 meeting opened with a very brief discussion about the district’s 2015 budget, which will likely see approval in early August before going into effect in October. Last month, in preparation for the property appraiser’s Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices mailed to homeowners each fall, supervisors set a high water mark for their spending. The proposed budget plan, which added funds for a potential uptick in landscaping costs and included $400,000 for an expected capital improvement project to bring existing playground equipment into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increased the Operations and Management portion of the district’s assessments by $147 per home to $543. (Westchase’s western villages, which paid higher O&M assessments last year when the district recouped a tax credit that had been incorrectly applied two straight years, would see an increase of approximately $100 from last year’s assessment. For a PDF copy of the draft budget, click here; for complete assessment tables, see pages 45-46. District Manager Andrew Mendenhall informed supervisors that the district will also mail notices to owners letting them know of an expected assessment increase.

From June through August, supervisors typically fine tune their spending plan, which often sees initially budgeted spending levels decrease somewhat. “There were certainly items we put in the budget that we need to have discussion on,” observed CDD Chair Mark Ragusa.

Review of those items, however, will have to wait unto the July 8 meeting because supervisors spent the bulk of their June meeting on their upcoming landscaping bid, the district’s most significant cost. In particular, they debated the best approach to review bidding companies. With a straight bid, state law requires them to pick the lowest bidder. To ensure they get a qualified company, however, they can take two approaches. They can implement a scoring metric in which supervisors score companies in different categories, such as size, financial stability, experience and price. Or they can create a questionnaire whose responses can be reviewed by a committee, which will determine which companies are qualified to undertake the work, prior to bid openings.

Supervisors reviewed a prequalifying questionnaire prepared by OLM, Inc., the company they hired to assist with the bid and review Westchase’s landscaping contractor monthly. Last month supervisors expressed a desire to broaden the search to allow a broader swath of companies to bid. OLM, in response, shortened the questionnaire to minimize potential financial restrictions. Based upon supervisors’ comments, however, they may have gone too far. “This is a scaled down version of what we had several years ago,” stated Ragusa. “This does me no good.”

“That,” Mendenhall explained, “is their approach to making the process less restrictive.”

CDD Supervisor Brian Ross agreed the shortened form fell short of expectations. “It’s almost silly to call them prequalification questions,” he stated.

Supervisors, however, ultimately voted unanimously to prequalify companies with a questionnaire. They requested, however, that Mendenhall circulate the older one, then fine tune it based on supervisors’ responses. They also directed Mendenhall to establish a review committee consisting of OLM, CDD Field Manager Doug Mays and himself. Last, supervisors requested the bid timeline be adjusted to allow them to accept a final bid at their August session, which will also serve as their budget approval.

After brief discussion, supervisors also voted unanimously to authorize staff to acquire iPads to enable them to review all meeting materials electronically, which should save the district approximately $7,500 yearly in printing and mailing costs.

CDD supervisors also heard a request from Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Nancy Sells, who requested that the district continue to post banners in the Linebaugh median promoting WCA programs. A previous agreement to post them, lasting three months, had expired. Supervisors agreed to post all WCA banners promoting community events and programs with the caveat that they not specifically advertise any business names. Supervisors, did, however, express a desire to have staff limit the number of banners on display at any time.

In other action CDD Supervisor Bob Argus asked CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to explore different options for possibly winning access to district-owned land through Promise Drive, a privately owned road off Sheldon Road, and the possibility of using wetland mitigation swaps to make currently protected wetlands in parks available for recreational use.

Closing the meeting, CDD Field Manager Doug Mays informed supervisors that the district’s off-duty deputy patrol had focused on Baybridge Park to address teen loitering there after dark. He added that staff had requested that Hillsborough County also stripe a turn-around at the park’s entrance to ensure that it remain free of illegally parked vehicles.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:45 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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