Although they unanimously approved a revised ordinance governing Siesta Village maintenance, the Sarasota County commissioners Tuesday questioned whether staff was estimating too high a budget for the expenses.
After Mark Smith, a representative of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. Board of Directors, said figures staff had given him indicated the upkeep for the current fiscal year would be about $55,000, Ryan Montague, of the county’s Mobility/Traffic Engineering and Operations office, told the commissioners Smith’s figures did not reflect a full quarter of county expenses.
Total year-to-date operating costs were $38,460, Montague added. If the county continued to provide the level of service it had been offering in the Village since the contract with vendor JWM Management Inc. expired in August, Montague said, the total for the 2012 fiscal year would be about $183,000.
However, Commissioner Joe Barbetta said his calculations showed the total should be about $120,000 for the year.
Then Montague explained that not all the work orders for Village maintenance had been fed into the software program staff was using to calculate expenses.
“(Those work orders) will hit the (Village Public Improvement District) fund in a few weeks,” he said.
They probably would total another $18,000, Montague said.
“We haven’t done a detailed accounting yet,” he said.
Still, Commissioner Nora Patterson said, that would add up to about $55,000 for four months. Barbetta added that that would lead to an annual bill between $160,000 and $170,000.
The budget county staff set for Village maintenance for the current fiscal year was $207,000, Montague said. That was based on expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year, when the total was about $205,000.
That figure resulted from the bills paid to JWM Management.
Barbetta maintained that an annual budget, based on the year-to-date expenses, would be about $165,000.
County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh reminded the commissioners that they would not need to set the next improvement district budget until July.
“If you have better information then, use it,” DeMarsh said.
However, Smith, Patterson and Barbetta voiced concerns about potential contractors thinking they should bid about $200,000 on a request for proposals that would be going out soon for the upkeep.
During the outset of his presentation to the commissioners, Montague had reminded them that the ordinance was being revised “due to criticisms about (the JWM contract) and the billing process … ”
Montague was referring to a lawsuit Village property owner Chris Brown filed against the county in January 2011, saying he felt his assessments for the maintenance district were too high. The lawsuit has not been resolved, though Brown’s attorney, Morgan Bentley of the Sarasota firm Bentley & Bruning, told the commissioners in late July that it appeared county staff was on the right track in suggestions regarding better accounting of maintenance bills.
“I’m trying to avoid what happened before,” Barbetta said of the lawsuit. “They were absolutely legitimate complaints.”
After county staff put the new maintenance contract out for bids, Montague said, the County Commission would have to approve the bid award because of the amount of money involved. More than likely, he said, “We will redo the budget when we get the bid.”
“But the contractors are going to know what our budget is,” Barbetta said. “You’re going to see a lot of bids at $185,000, $190,000.”
The bid would not have any figure attached to it, Montague said.
“We’ve had really high-level people out there in the Village all the time since all these complaints came down,” Patterson said, referring to Brown’s lawsuit, “and now everybody loves (how the Village looks).” However, she added, “I don’t know that we can afford to have that type of monitoring from our staff all the time … It’s kind of a funny thing: First, we’re the goats when we do (the maintenance) and don’t do it very well. Then, we’re the goats, because we’re doing it very well, but we’re finally going to turn it over to somebody else. It’s kind of hard to win.”
Patterson made the motion to approve the ordinance, adding, “We look forward to getting the details on the budget when the figures come in.”
Responding to a request from Village property owners, Patterson made another motion, which also won unanimous approval, asking county staff to review the expenses incurred by the SKVMC in setting up the corporation and reporting back.
More Village improvements proposed
During a public hearing Tuesday on a revised county ordinance governing Village maintenance, Siesta resident Michael Shay asked the Sarasota County Commission to consider the installation of curbside receptacles for the collection of recyclable materials such as and glass.
Ryan Montague from the county’s Mobility/Traffic Engineering and Operations office, told the commission that the new ordinance would allow the commissioners to add improvements to the district, with the property owners picking up any extra costs.
“Well, I think it’s a good idea,” Commissioner Nora Patterson said of Shay’s suggestion. “But I’m not sure we should do that today,” she added, because Shay is not one of the property owners taxed for the Village work.
Siesta architect Mark Smith, who appeared during the public hearing on behalf of those property owners, said he had not discussed the recycling proposal with them, but he would do so and report back to the commission.
During his comments, Smith also asked the commissioners to consider expanding the brick sidewalk and driveways on Beach Road, to incorporate property that was overlooked when the Village beautification project was undertaken in 2008-2009.
That property, he said during the Feb. 7 meeting of the Siesta Key Village Association, is The UPS Store, adjacent to the Foxy Lady boutique.