With no comment Tuesday, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously set a public hearing for 9 a.m. Feb. 21 on a revised ordinance governing the upkeep of the Siesta Key Village.
Almost six months after the commission agreed to general parameters for a reworking of the ordinance, a draft of it appeared on the consent agenda for the board’s regular meeting Jan. 24.
Following complaints and a lawsuit filed by Village property owner Chris Brown in January 2011, James Harriott Jr., executive director of the Public Works Department, told the County Commission July 26 that a revised ordinance would ensure the responsibilities of all the parties involved would be specified and the county would make certain detailed records were kept regarding expenses for the Village upkeep.
“The key change to (the ordinance) is the county is taking over the responsibility of taking on the contract (with the vendor),” Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the Public Works Department, said.
Previously, the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. had that responsibility.
Maroney has overseen the county’s handling of the upkeep since the Maintenance Corp.’s contract with JWM Management expired in August.
Regarding bills from future vendors, Maroney added that the new ordinance would provide for county staff to have the final say on all payments. It was not inappropriate for the Maintenance Corp. to handle JWM’s bills, he said, “but we want to take any kind of question on scrutiny off the table.” It will be clear, he added, “(that) we’re tracking the costs … Anyone (in the special assessment district for maintenance) at any time can say, ‘Where is the money being spent?’ and we can demonstrate that to them.”
One contention of Brown’s lawsuit was that the Maintenance Corp. was paying JWM Management excessive costs for some of the upkeep.
Another key change in the ordinance was especially important to Mark Smith, who has been the primary Maintenance Corp. board member involved in talks with the county. That section allows the Maintenance Corp. to hire someone on an hourly basis, with reimbursement from the county, for any “legal, accounting or property management work necessary for (the SKVMC) to fulfill its responsibilities … ”
The ordinance specifies that the Maintenance Corp. must prove the work is necessary “and that the fees and costs are fair and reasonable.”
“I’m glad to see that in there,” Smith said Monday.
In December, Smith had told members of the Siesta Key Village Association that he and other directors of the Maintenance Corp. still wanted to see the ordinance contain a provision allowing the board to cover basic expenses. Smith and SKVA President Russell Matthes, who also sits on the Maintenance Corp. Board of Directors, had met with Deputy County Administrator Bill Little and staff of the County Attorney’s Office in December to argue that point.
Smith estimated those expenses on an annual basis would be between $1,000 $1,500.
Monday, Smith said he still would like to see the county reimburse the SKVA for about $5,000 in bills the SKVA had paid to cover expenses the Maintenance Corp. had incurred in establishing itself as a state corporation, along with accounting fees.
“That will be the topic of my public hearing talk” in February, Smith said.
Vendor contract still not ready
The proposed contract for a vendor to keep Siesta Village clean and welcoming to tourists is not ready yet, Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the county’s Public Works Department, said Jan. 20.
The Procurement Department staff is continuing to examine the document, Maroney said. “I think we’re just down to the last few days (of that).”
Once that final review is complete, he said, the document will be distributed through an “informational bulletin,” which is a means for county staff to obtain feedback on the qualifications the contract will require of bidders.
“Lately, bidding has been an issue,” Maroney said, with county staff having dealt with numerous bid protests over the past couple of years.
“I’d rather hear from a vender two weeks later, (after the contract was put out for bid), that the bid was a mess,” he said.
Asked whether the county commissioners would review the contract, Maroney said, “From a comfort level, I would really rather have them approve it.” However, he said, the necessity of such a review would depend on the size of the vendor’s fee.