Gateway Sun

On March 11, 2015, a former member of Gateway’s Board of Supervisors named Rod Senior wrote an open letter to the residents of Gateway to justify the Gateway Services District spending millions of dollars on pond repairs.

In that letter, Senior said: “Beyond fiscal year 2015, my best cost estimate (after consultation with Tetra Tech), for the remaining 42 ponds on the list is between $3m – $4m.”

Tetra Tech is the GSCDD’s official engineering firm, and with their expert guidance, the top end price would be $4 million.

But by October 12, 2015, a new estimate provided by Tetra Tech changed the game… putting the cost of repair 47 ponds in Gateway at $13,200,000.

Realizing that they didn’t even know how many ponds were in the district that they were responsible for, the GSCDD did something novel and decided to count them. The GSCDD has existed since 1986.

According to the GSCDD, the number of ponds as it stands now is 69. (Some ponds from Hampton Park and other communities are supposed to be deeded to the GSCDD in the future, which is why that number will probably change.)

Fast forward to present day, and the Lake Bank Restoration Project now consists of 64 pond repairs, with cost estimates ranging between $20 million and $30 million. Only 5 ponds in all of Gateway were considered to be in good enough shape not to fix.

So what started as a $4 million project to correct 42 ponds, has transformed to over $20 million for 64 ponds.

To tackle the problem, the ponds were divided in to three groups based on the severity of the fix needed. Rather amazingly, each of the three severity groups consisted of a nearly equal amount of “lineal feet” of pond banks. Quite the coincidence.

A “facilities plan” was filed for the first 13 ponds, and financing was obtained through State Revolving Funds – basically a low interest loan from the State of Florida.

To date, 5 ponds have been fixed at a cost of $3,456,898.12 for the work, and up to $317,065.00 for materials. It’s not known if 100% of the materials that were purchased were used or if there’s any stuff left over for future use.

But given the amount of approved spending and borrowing for the first group of 13 ponds, that left the GSCDD with only about $3,050,000 to fix the remaining 8.

They had already blown the budget, and they knew it.

This time, however, there was no open letter to the residents to let them know.

It was not until the bids packages were prepared for the final 8 ponds that the Gateway Sun discovered anything was wrong. And that’s because the district only asked for bids for 6 ponds, not all 8.

We pulled up a document titled “Lake Bank Prioritization List” from 2016 and immediately noticed that the lakes that were left out happened to be the largest two (and thus the most expensive two) from the remaining 8.

Because we are eternal optimists when it comes to the GSCDD, we were hoping that bids for the 6 ponds would come in at a much lower rate than the first five. But when the bids for the 6 were unsealed yesterday, we discovered that the cost savings would only be marginal at best.

The two left-out lakes from the initial 13 are Lake 92 which is south of Devonshire Lakes Circle and surrounds Pinewood Lakes Drive (as a rough description), and Lake 124 which is north of Mahogany Isle Drive and east of Cypress Links Drive. Those lakes are 4,868 and 4,101 lineal feet in size, respectively.

The six lakes that were put out for bid were Lake 60 (2545 lineal feet), Lake 61 (920 lineal feet), Lake 90 (1134 lineal feet), Lake 110 (2440 lineal feet), Lake 119 (1258 lineal feet) and Lake 121 (480 lineal feet).

They took out the largest of the lakes because they knew they couldn’t award all 8 bids with the money they had left. And to our knowledge they never bothered to say: Oh, hey.. by the way..

Assuming all of yesterday’s lowest bids are accepted, and assuming the bids included materials (materials were bid separately for the first 5) it will cost $1,793,546.15 – or $204.35 per lineal foot for the six.

Meaning it could take another $1,832,815.15 to fix Lakes 92 and 124 using the $204.35/lf figure.

Again – it depends on the materials question being answered – but the GSCDD will be between $500,000 to $1,500,000 short.

On about a $7 million opening round.

Another question will surround the Lake 119/121 contract, for which the three bids were $680,300… $624,162.13… and $307,420.

The $307,420 number was used in the above calculations since it was the lowest. But it’s possible that Tetra Tech could recommend against that bid, which would change the calculations entirely (for the worse). But ultimately that will be up to the Board of Supervisors, not Tetra Tech. The board has not had the opportunity to officially consider and debate the bids yet.

Anyway, these miscalculations are just some of the reasons we’re begging all Supervisors not named Ed Tinkle (who is a lost cause unfortunately) to open up their eyes here.

Remember, this whole thing started with a $4 million price tag. Total. From essentially the same people who are managing the project now.

We spent about $4 million on just the first 5 ponds alone.

And there’s still 59 more to go.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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