CDD Appoints New Landscaping Firm and Begins Budget Discussions

Engineer Robert Dvorak kicked off the meeting with an update on pond #125, behind Stonebridge. He noted that he had begun working with a surveyor to address drainage issues when they discovered a county-owned pipe that runs underneath Linebaugh Avenue that was almost completely clogged. Dvorak said this could explain the issues with the pond. Field Manager Doug Mays called the county to clean out the pipe and said now that he is aware of the pipe’s existence, he will add it to the list of areas his staff monitors in preparation for rainy season. Dvorak said he will also watch how pond #125 responds this rainy season to see if the issue has been resolved.

Dvorak then turned to the issue of traffic calming in the Greens. Upon further investigation into concerns with pedestrian and golf cart crossings on Gretna Green, he determined the actual speed of vehicles approaching the gate is concerning. He added that the lanes are 14 feet wide, giving drivers more freedom to speed. His recommendation was multifaceted: 1) Beginning at the median north of Greensprings Drive, restripe the lanes to reduce them to a width of 10 feet. 2) Cut back vegetation at the median to increase visibility of the golf cart crossing. 3) Remove the existing crosswalk inside the gates and move it south of Green Links Drive. 4) Relocate the monument at the entrance to Green Links Drive and trim back vegetation to increase visibility. 5) If still needed after the other modifications are in place, convert the golf cart crossing to a speed table.

Chairman Matt Lewis asked about pricing for these modifications. Dvorak said he would need to start by getting a survey to ensure the new crosswalk is ADA compliant.

District Counsel Erin McCormick informed the Board they would need to conduct an RFQ to officially appoint the District Engineer. At the January 10 meeting, the Board had approved an Assignment of Contract for Engineering Services from JMT to Dvorak’s newly formed company BDI. Supervisor Greg Chesney asked why they needed to go through the RFQ process since the Board had agreed to work with BDI. McCormick explained that they were nearing the spending threshold to remain compliant with the Consultant Competitive Negotiation Act. Supervisor Chris Barrett asked if the RFQ was the same process as the recent Landscaping RFP and McCormick explained it was a much simpler process. The Board would need to authorize an RFQ notice, then interested firms would submit their application. She added that in the case of the RFQ, price isn’t a key factor due to safety concerns. The Board unanimously approved posting an RFQ notice.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall then turned to the Landscaping RFP, stating that the public opening of bids had taken place earlier that day. He then turned the floor over to Paul Woods with OLM, the District’s independent horticultural firm. Woods noted that of the seven qualified bidders, they received six responses. “The responses show that Westchase is still a very desirable community to work with,” he said, adding that he was confident the District had received competitive bids.

He reiterated that the District had opted to take over arbor care, palm pruning and mulch, which helped keep the bids manageable.

Mendenhall announced that Fieldstone Landscaping had narrowly edged out RedTree Landscape Systems with a three-year bid of $2,059,850. The Board unanimously voted to accept Fieldstone’s bid.

Moving on to the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget, Mendenhall explained that the first step was to create a high-water mark for any proposed increases. Once those numbers were set, the Board could adjust downward, but no increases could be made after this meeting. He advised the Board that key areas to consider are the increased landscaping contract and villages with recent or pending projects that might need a slight increase, namely the Greens and Saville Rowe. Greens Alternate VM Steve Splaine asked why the increases for those neighborhoods and Mendenhall explained that in the case of Saville Rowe, it was due to playing catch up from unfunded projects. For the Greens, it was primarily due to the increase in the Securitas contract. “We keep approving Securitas increases because the residents want us to approve them,” Barrett said. “So, we need to put the full contract price into the high-water mark for the budget.” That contract price is $240,997.36, a 37% increase from the 2023 adopted budget price of $176,200.

Mendenhall also pointed out that due to the District’s outdated landscaping pricing with Davey coupled with inflationary increases, they would be looking at a $100,000 increase in landscaping costs in the coming year. The Board would also need to budget for the mulch, palm tree trimming and arbor care that the District would be taking on. Mays said they would be looking at roughly $262,000. Chesney pointed out that these numbers would wipe out the fund balance and this might be a good time for an increase, adding that it had been 12 to 14 years since the last increase. Upon further investigation, the WOW determined the last increase was $147 for the 2015 fiscal year.

Based on this information, the Board agreed to set the high-water mark for budget discussions with a 12.5% increase in the operations and maintenance budget, in addition to the line-item increases for landscaping and the Securitas contract. The public budget hearing is set for Aug. 8.

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