Another Oops at Public Works?

More Concerns ref Landscape Maintenance Bid    March 17, 2014
Mayor & Council,
Please take a look at the specifications below for commercial mowers.  These specs come from the Dixie Chopper company, however they are similar and consistent with commercial mowers in the industry.
In the initial bid that was published, the City was mandating that a contractor wanting to bid on all four sections would need to have 26 commercial size mowers.  This is completely out of the norm and I have yet to hear of any reasonable explanation as to why such a requirement would have been mandated.  After the first round of questions were submitted the number was reduced from 26 to 20 mowers.  Still no realistic explanation as to why the number was reduced all of the sudden, and/or why 20 mowers would be required.
So I ask you to apply common and reasonable sense to these numbers.  For all four sections in the bid, there was an estimated total of 198 acres of grass to be cut in the City.  (Section 1 = 77 acres, Section 2 = 70 acres, section 3 = 26.36 acres and section 4 = 24.88 acres)  Now, below you will notice that a commercial mower with a 60″ cutting deck has the capability to cut about 5.3 acres per hour at 80% operating capacity. Therefore, 1 single commercial grade mower has the capability to easily cut more than 40 acres of grass in a given 8 hour work day.  This means that in order to cut over 200 acres of grass, a commercial lawn maintenance company would need to have a minimum of 5 commercial grade mowers.  If you want to factor in a couple of mowers for spares and maybe some different sizes for detail work, we are talking about 6-9 mowers total.  And these numbers only apply if the intent is to have all 4 sections of the City cut in one day.  (By the way, 60″ and 72″ cutting decks are the most common sizes in the commercial industry.)  So now ask yourselves, or better yet ask whomever decided on these numbers, to explain why they thought 20 – 26 mowers should be required for this bid.

Model: 2744 2750 2760 2760KW 2660 EFI
Cutting Deck 44″ 50″ 60″ 60″ 60″
Engine HP 27 HP 27 HP 27 HP 27 HP 26 HP
Engine Make Generac® Generac® Generac® Kawasaki® Kohler® EFI
Pumps Hydro-Gear® 10 Series Hydro-Gear® 10 Series Hydro-Gear® 12 Series Hydro-Gear® 12 Series Hydro-Gear® 12 Series
Wheel Motors Parker® 240 Series Parker® 240 Series Parker® 240 Series Parker® 240 Series Parker® 240 Series
Acres per Hour 3.5** 4.0** 5.3** 5.3** 5.3**
Fuel Capacity 8 Gal. 8 Gal. 8 Gal. 8 Gal. 8 Gal.
Fuel Type Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline

**Acres per hour is calculated on 80% operator accuracy and mowing conditions with an optimum cutting height of 2.5 to 4.5 inches.
So here are some other disturbing things I feel you should know about this bid process;
– The City made a mandate to require a minimum amount of mowers for the bid and dedicated mowers for each equipment, however there was no requirement to even use all the mowers that must be possessed in the bid.  Thus if a contractor wants, he may own 26 mowers, but may only use the same 4 mowers every week to cut all 4 sections.  Does this make any sense to any of you?  To even make you scratch your head more, the bid required no minimum amount of employees.
– The City bid asked to include mulching beds as part of the contract.  When asked, the City was not able to provide an estimate of the amount of mulch that would be needed to properly mulch the beds.  How can the City not know this and provide it to the bidders?  The obvious problem here is that if one bidder decides they should put down 125 yards of mulch and another 250 yards of mulch, the overall thickness of mulch, appearance and longevity will be vastly different.  In order to protect the investment of the taxpayers, a definitive amount of mulch should have been required so that the City can insure the taxpayers are going to get exactly what they have paid for.  The City should have been able to calculate an approximately square footage of beds that required a minimum of 3″ depth of mulch and provided the bidders a minimum amount of mulch to include in the contract.
– A question was raised if the City employee charged with overseeing the contractors has the authority to dictate to the contractor which mowers (size and hp) to utilize in specific areas, after the bid is awarded.  The answer from the City was “yes.”  So herein lies another problem.  How does a contractor bid a job where the City can change and dictate what size equipment to be used after the contract is awarded?  For example; if a contractor bids an area to use 72″ wide mowers and then the City employee charge with overseeing the contract decides for whatever reason to make the contractor use a 48″ mower in a given area, how is the contractor expected to absorb the loss.  Obviously it will take much longer and more money to cut large sections with a 48″ mower versus a 72″ mower.  How is a contractor expected to bid the unknown?
Lastly, if you take a good look at the bid package in its entirety that was provided, and apply some good common sense reasoning, it is little wonder why so many quality landscape maintenance contractors either chose to walk away with no bid and/or not even entertain the bid.  The fact that the City ended up with less than 2 bidders per section to recommend to council is absolutely unacceptable and City staff should be embarrassed to bring any recommendation before council after having 6 months to get this sorted out.
John Cheney, Tuff Turf & Port Orange Resident

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