BIO Landscape and Maintenance, Inc:
BIO submitted the lowest bid at an annual cost of $2,014,175. While the variance between the 2010 and the 2015 bids is significant, there should be some recognition of the differences in the current standards and proposed enhanced standards and the addition of facilities not included in the current Park and Pathway contract for all bids submitted.
In conditioning the bids, the team noticed a significant increase in pathway maintenance cost which increased from $26,765.71 to $425,244. When asked by staff if this number was correct, the following response was received from Bio Landscape:
“For the Pathway Maintenance portion of the Contract, we also leaned very heavily on our knowledge and experience of the contract while also taking into account the increase in scope for pathway blowing to fifty-two times per year. Utilization of the pathway system will only continue to increase by The Woodlands residents; knowing the scope, expectations and what it takes to perform, this is an area within the contract we significantly increased our labor allotment for the upcoming contract. We are confident this is the dollar amount necessary to provide service to this area of the Park and Pathway Contract”
Bio Landscape submitted a “no-bid” for the All Weather Turf Maintenance due to lacking the needed experience in this area. In addition, their small cul-de-sac bid price was significantly lower than the costs that were incurred in 2015 ($105,308-2015; $32,335- 2016 bid). In their response, they indicated that as having a year with this project they realized the staff and time needed thus they were able to reduce their costs. Other items in their supplemental price list were also conditioned to ensure all prices are correct.
BIO has many large contracts in the Houston area specializing in right-of-way mowing, detail landscape work, irrigation and construction projects. They currently have 500 employees. BIO is a Yellowstone Landscape Company which was ranked #13 in the top 150 Lawn & Landscape companies in 2014 by Lawn & Landscape Magazine. Their headquarters are in Burnell, Florida and have offices in Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia. Due to receiving the contract in 2010, they established a branch location located on 2978 and 1488 for easy access in and out of the community.
Over the course of the last five years, Bio has spent time learning the community and developing the needed infrastructure (staff, materials and equipment) to ensure contract compliance. During the first year of the Agreement, Bio Landscape had a sharp learning curve due to the level of infrastructure needed for the scope of work in the agreement (staffing, equipment, time, material). In the second year, the Board approved using a third party inspector to ensure contract compliance. This effort assisted both staff and the contractor and standards were generally met to the staff's and community’s satisfaction. A degree of satisfaction was held with the contractor during years 3, 4 and earlier this year. However during the last few months, there have been numerous resident complaints and staff concerns with ensuring the pathway maintenance and general park standards are being met to the specifications. Bio was issued notices of non-compliance with the contract terms and specifications. Per discussions with Bio, they indicated they were challenged due to staffing issues and the Spring rains which caused fast growing grasses and understory that needed to be trimmed more aggressively. While they were out of compliance, a plan was formulated with staff to ensure compliance by the start of school for the pathways and general park areas.
The Brickman Group:
Brickman submitted the second lowest bid at an annual cost of $2,198,810. Brickman is also the sub-contractor to The Woodlands Land Development Company for the Streetscape Maintenance Contract.
During the bid conditioning phase questions were posed to Brickman to ensure the accuracy of their numbers regarding all weather turf maintenance, irrigation part mark-ups an the cost of the small cul de sac program. Their small cul-de-sac bid price was lower than the costs that were incurred in 2015 ($105,308-2015; $9,973- 2016 bid). When asked to clarify this price, Brickman provided the following information:
Most of these Small Cul De Sacs are very close to areas that we already maintain. The speck calls for April or May, our goal would be to complete these as early as acceptable by the Township which allows us to utilize our guys before full fledge every week mowing would occur.
Other items in their supplemental price list were also conditioned to ensure all prices are correct.
The Brickman Group was ranked #2 in the top 150 Lawn & Landscape companies in 2014 by Lawn & Landscape Magazine. Currently, they are in the process of merging with Valley Crest Landscape thus making the largest landscape management company in the nation with sales valuing $1.8 billion. Company headquarters are in Gaithersburg, MD with 10,000 total employees. They have a branch office in The Woodlands and they service Hewitt, Carlton Woods Association, and John Cooper School to name a few.
Staff has no concerns with The Brickman Groups’ bid or ability to perform and execute the specifications of the contract.
Maldonado Nursery and Landscape
Maldonado submitted the highest bid at an annual cost of $3,248,527. Maldonado indicated they have 30 years of experience and they are one of the largest privately owned landscape and irrigation contractors in the state of Texas. They have offices located in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley & Corpus Christi and have risen to the 43rd
largest landscaping company in the top 150 Lawn & Landscape companies in 2014 by Lawn & Landscape Magazine. While Maldonado submitted a bid that was as much at double the other companies for certain line items they also submitted a bid for the All Weather Turf component totaled $165,563 as opposed to Brickman’s submittal of $36,252 per year. Other items in their supplemental price list were also conditioned to ensure all prices are correct.
Bid Conditioning – How to Analyze Bids
Overall, the bids received were well developed and the contractors understood the complexity of the specifications and the system. As this is the fourth time since 2006 this contract has been bid, the Township has good knowledge and experience with the process and issues to consider. In addition, valuable insight to these types of bid processes was gained from a third party professional, Dr. Todd Watson, of Texas A&M, who was retained in 2007 to analyze the similarly complex Streetscape Maintenance bids. Dr. Watson advised the following at that time:
- As a general rule, quality contractors will tend to submit bid prices “to create the effect intended by the Owner/Managing Agent” as specified in the specifications. Other contractors tend to compete on price alone requiring the specifications to be enforced on a frequent basis. Low-bid contractors typically create additional work for the managing agent because they fail to provide the “other services” (e.g. meetings, reports, timely response, etc.) not specifically outlined in the specs. I have consulted on properties where the property owner/manager was allured by a low bid price (against my recommendation) assuming that all contractors were bidding “apples to apples”. The quality of maintenance suffered on these properties, and the property managers had to expend additional resources to police the contractors and to re-solicit bids and hire new contractors that bid the properties as specified.
- When bidding on specifications, the current contractor always has the best understanding of the scope of work and associated costs. If there are huge inconsistencies between the bids of competing contractors and the current contractor, as is the case for The Woodlands, then this indicates that the new bidders probably do not fully comprehend the amount or intensity of services that will be required.
- Contractors sometimes bid landscape maintenance jobs below the fair market price with the intention of up-selling to profit on future work that is not part of the contracted bid price. This includes plant installation, irrigation repair, and other extra services. Unfortunately, this is common in the industry because bidders can cancel most landscape contracts with few penalties if anticipated profits fail to materialize.
Bid Conditioning – Supplemental Service
A component of the park and pathway maintenance contract is supplemental services that are requested of the contractor on an “as needed” basis by the Township. This is needed to be able to respond to unpredictable conditions that may arise throughout the contract period. Examples are additional weekend trash removal, landscape and sod repairs, tree removal and additional sports turf top dressing. The supplemental services are also how new park and pathways are are added to the master contract as they are developed and accepted in the system.
To ensure an “apples to apples” comparison of the three vendors, staff reviewed historical information on supplemental services used and forecasted additional parks that will be coming on line to understand the total cost of an agreement. Please see Attachment C3, for an analysis for the supplemental services and the historical use of these services. Overall, while the vendor’s prices may range greatly for individual services, the total sum of the services is as follows:
- Bio Landscape - $261,024.70
- Brickman Group - $262,928.25
- Maldonado - $410,546.75
It should be noted that each time a service is needed, staff will review the cost of the additional services and determine if the cost is warranted and if there are other less expensive means of providing the service, including sourcing it in house or through another vendor.
Bid Conditioning – Analysis of Standards and Additional Parks
As identified above a number of the landscape maintenance standards were revised due to residents and community comments received by the Parks and Recreation Department over the last several years, and from staff’s review of how to improve and enhance the overall maintenance based on the community’s use of the parks system. Using the supplemental pricing and per park bids submitted by the three vendors an analysis was conducted to determine impact of these additions. The total estimated impact of the projected new park additions is $62,942 which is inclusive of the all-weather turf maintenance and $316,787 for the enhanced standards which totals $379,729. Using the two lowest bidders (Bio and Brickman) and averaging these prices ($2,106,462.50) then deducting the cost increase due to new parks and standards equals $1,726,763.50.
Per the contract, there are have been no CPI increases, thus if the base value of the agreement had a 3% factor, the adjusted value would be $1,592,465, approximately $134,298 lower than the “base” value of the averaged contract amount when new park and updated standards are factored. It should also be noted that in 2010, Bio Landscaped indicated underbidding the contract to obtain the contract thus allowing them to establish a larger portfolio with The Woodlands as its main contract.
All Weather Turf Maintenance-
Currently, The Woodlands Township has two contractors providing maintenance for the all weather turf (fields and common areas) in the community- MDH Turf and Brickman which totals $46,856 per year. Both of these contracts are set to expire December 31, 2015. Two bids were received as alternates for the turf maintenance- Maldonado and Brickman, with Brickman being the lowest bid. As it is a challenge to make an Alternate a separate contract as the alternate bid may have been conditional on receiving the whole contract, an all weather turf price was requested from Brickman without being awarded the overall contract. Their price for Alternates B, C, D, and E total $46,769 per year. Brickman has been conducting the bi-weekly maintenance on the sportfields since their inception and The Township has been pleased with the results.
Streetscape System –
A component of this bid was to identify potential efficiencies in combining certain components of the streetscape system within the parks and pathway maintenance program due in part to the terms outlined in the Comprehensive Community Services Agreement (CCSA). Alternate Bids were requested which required the vendors to provide the following pricing options: All parks; Streetscape areas as identified (76 parks with adjacent neighborhood entrances); price for the remaining parks, if those parks with streetscape areas were removed from the park and pathway maintenance program.
While there may be some efficiencies realized, there are challenges with managing the concept. In essence, 20% of the community’s neighborhood entrances would be maintained by one contractor while the remaining 80% would be maintained by the other. Secondly, while standards are provided to each contractor the method in which they execute the standards will be different thus a uniform look throughout the community may not be realized. In addition, it is conceivable that when touring the community there could be one contractor maintaining one entrance, the next contractor maintains the next entrance and the first contractor maintains the third entrance. This aspect may cause confusion for residents on who maintains what in the community. Furthermore, each entrance located next to each other may not be maintained at the same time. For example, Contractor A may maintain an entrance on the first and 10th
day of the month, while the second contractor would maintain the entrance on the 5th
day of the month, however both are keeping within the 10 day standard. This type of confusion for residents already occurs frequently when one jumbo cul-de-sac is mowed one week and the one next to it is mowed the following week.
Other challenges with comparing the bids presented as an Alternate with the cost in the Streetscape contract are related to how each contract was bid and structured. The Park and Pathway scope was bid as a lump sum, i.e. how much to maintain an area on a yearly basis. The Streetscape system is developed as a time and materials contract with The Woodlands Development Company and their sub-contractor The Brickman Group. Please see Attachment D for a breakdown of costs related to the Streetscape Program, from the bids submitted as Alternates.
The lowest cost for the parks with streetscape areas and the lowest cost for those streetscape areas (76 entrances) totals $580,674. The lowest bidder for those parks without streetscape areas would be Brickman at a total cost of $1,207,086, thus totaling $1,787,760 for all parks and the 76 streetscape areas. As the total cost for the Parks to be done by Bio is $1,438.819, merging a portion of the systems would realize in an additional cost of $348,941 as opposed to a savings. Assuming The Township would receive a savings in the Streetscape contract of $291,291 from TWDC/Brickman, there would still be no net savings by attempting this approach.
Award the bid for park and pathway maintenance services to BIO Landscape & Maintenance, Inc. for a three year contract in the amount of $2,014,175.00 per year; Award the bid for all weather turf maintenance in the amount of $46,769 per year to The Brickman Group, LTD. This option totals $2,060,944.
Per the terms of the Comprehensive Community Services Agreement (CCSA), The Township can remove items from the Streetscape Maintenance Program, which includes neighborhood entrances. As noted above there are inherent challenges of having 20% of the entrances maintained by one contractor and the remaining 80% by another contractor. To manage this challenge, all of the neighborhood entrances could be moved to a single contractor along with the park and pathways. This model would afford the following:
- All neighborhood entrances being mowed at the same time
- All parks with neighborhood entrances being mowed at the same time with respect to the park
- Direct Township management of the neighborhood entrances in the community. In 2019, The Township will take over the complete responsibility of the streetscape system, thus this concept would advance this concept.
- One contractor working on landscape and grounds management in the community, thus the same level of services is being provided uniformly throughout the community to parks and entrances
Due to these issues an option would be to award the bid for park and pathway maintenance services, inclusive of the all weather turf, to Brickman Group in the amount of $2,235,062 per year ($2,198,810 base contract + $36,252 all weather turf).
While there is a $174,118 difference in cost ($184,635 increase in the base cost and a reduction in cost of $10,517 in the all weather turf cost), it is believed further economies of scale can be realized by The Township staff, The Woodlands Development Company and Brickman which could be more than the difference between the two contractors. Upon the conclusion of the first six months of the Agreement, during the 2017 Budget process, staff would report back to the Board with the actual cost savings and projected future savings. This option would require a reallocation of budget dollars from the Streetscape Maintenance Budget and to the Parks Operations Budget.
Staff believes that this option to award the Park and Pathway Maintenance Services bid to The Brickman Group including the transfer of all neighborhood entry maintenance services from the Streetscape Contract to the Park and Pathway Contract provides the overall best value to the Township along with improved quality, efficiency and increased management control over streetscape operations.