If all goes as planned, county staff should have a new bid for a vendor to handle the Village maintenance ready by Oct. 8, said Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations and public works for Sarasota County.
The County Attorney’s Office may want to make a few changes in the language, he said, but staff had worked both with the Procurement Department and Mark Smith, the representative of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., on the revised language.
Maroney met with Procurement staff Sept. 22, he said, to discuss final details.
James Harriott, executive director of the county’s Public Works Department, told county commissioners July 26 he hoped to present them a contract with a new vendor for their approval this fall.
“That could still happen,” Maroney said.
However, he said, it was possible a new vendor would not be hired until early 2012.
“I’m being very conservative,” he said. “I’m assuming somebody (among county staff) will want to change something.”
Smith had reported to the Siesta Key Village Association Sept. 6 he had reviewed both the revised request for proposals for the bid and the proposed changes in the ordinance that established the Maintenance Corp. He had suggested minor changes, he said.
The new ordinance specifies that any subsequent vendor hired will handle work that the first vendor, JWM Management, undertook over the previous year in the Village, Smith said.
JWM Management officials already had said they would not re-bid on the work; the firm’s contract period ended Aug. 15.
In the meantime, the county has been handling all the Village maintenance. It generally has won good marks from business owners, but Russell Matthes, president of the SKVA, sent an email Sept. 19 to Gary W. Spraggins in the county’s Mobility Infrastructure Department to complain about weeds growing up in the flowerbeds and the accumulation of cigarette butts.
Spraggins had notified Matthes by email in late August he was walking through the Village each morning to ensure work was conducted as planned.
County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson, whom Matthes copied on his email, asked Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis to check into Matthes’ complaint.
“I was out there today in a meeting … and even from my car I can see a lot of weeds,” she wrote in a Sept. 19 email, “Must be hard to keep up with this in the rainy season, but it seems to me we have that obligation, having taken this over temporarily.”
Lewis asked Harriott and another staff member to meet him on the Key at 8:45 a.m. Sept. 20. Patterson said Lewis and Harriott “got people to work on it right away.”
Spraggins has continued to walk the Village every morning, Maroney said. Even after a new vendor is hired, Maroney said, Spraggins will continue his walks until he feels certain the work is being handled properly.
“Those folks out there have taxed themselves (for the upkeep),” Maroney said.
That tax for oversight and the hiring of JWM Management prompted Chris Brown, owner of The Beach Club, The Hub Baja Grill and The Cottage, to file suit against the county in January. Brown’s attorney, Morgan Bentley, now of Bentley and Bruning, wrote in the complaint that the county was not following specifics of the ordinance regarding the upkeep. After Harriott laid out plans July 26 for much greater county oversight, Bentley voiced his approval.
“There will be very little doubt on how much something costs,” Maroney said. “A lot of pressure is going to be applied to this bid. … Several checks and balances are in place. We’re going to be keeping copious records … ”
That also will make it easier to plan future budgets, he said.
‘Public hazard’ replacement pending
Village property owners for months have complained about the deterioration of a wooden fence along a short boardwalk near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Treasure Boat Way.
Additionally, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office personnel have responded to numerous complaints about vandalism of the fence, including people kicking out the railings.
In a Sept. 19 email, Russell Matthes, president of the Siesta Key Village Association, reminded county officials they had promised in August to look into the situation.
“(The fence) has now become a public hazard, and we will be having Safe Treats for the kids on Halloween,” Matthes said. “We are approaching three months on this issue, so I would suggest that this problem gets resolved before someone gets injured.”
Safe Treats, as Matthes indicated, is the annual Halloween festival in the Village. Children and their families are invited to wear costumes and visit participating businesses for treats.
Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations and public works for the county, agreed last week with Matthes’ assessment of the fence.
“It is a mess and it has to go,” Maroney said. “A wooden fence is just very difficult to maintain.”
The delay has been discussion regarding the type of fence with which it should be replaced. The boardwalk is deteriorating as well, he said, so it also will be replaced. Plans tentatively call for the new boardwalk to be constructed of a composite material that will endure wear and tear more readily.
Maroney and Gary Spraggins, of the county’s Mobility Infrastructure Office, plan to meet this week with County Commission Chair Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key, to discuss options for the fence and boardwalk, Maroney said.
“Gary’s been doing research,” Maroney said. The prerequisites for the fence, he said, are that it be “sturdy and vandal-resistant and aesthetically pleasing. … You’re asking for a lot there.”