Gateway Sun

During today’s Gateway Services District meeting, the Board of Supervisors will decide the fate of the six ponds contained in Phase 2 of the Lake Bank Restoration Project.

It will also be their first real opportunity in nearly a year to discuss the long-term fate of the project.

The Gateway Sun has spent the last two weeks explaining to the community that the project is too problematic to continue with Supervisor Ed Tinkle and Tetra Tech in charge of it. (Sorry if we’ve bored you.)

Yesterday we told you about the Walnut Creek CDD, who fixed 10 of their own ponds for a fraction of what Gateway has already paid so far to fix five ponds – let alone what the final project cost will be once all 64 are fixed.

One reader asked that since Gateway’s pond projects were put up for bid, doesn’t that mean the market has spoken and we’re getting the lowest possible price to get the ponds in to compliance?

The answer is no, and here’s why.

The bid packages are written in such a way that they require certain materials must be used, and that certain techniques must be followed, and all kinds of other terms are included which automatically ensures that the project will be a major endeavor.

Smaller companies with more cost effective techniques cannot submit bids with their own ideas to get the ponds in to compliance, because they won’t meet the requirements set out in the bid package.

If they come to the table with an outside-the-box solution as part of their bid, they’ll be told “Ah ah ah! No no! We said you have to fix it with this stuff, this way. Not your way.” and the bid will be rejected out of hand.

So when the bidding packages were crafted by Tetra Tech they were already guaranteed to generate the 6 and 7 figure bids we’ve seen so far.

And that also means only the big companies can bid. Because a lot of the smaller firms look at the bid packages and realize the GSCDD’s requirements will cost $300,000 in materials and then they’ll have to put out another $1 million in labor and equipment purchases up front. So they don’t bid, because they can’t afford to.

Only the big guys who have the big overhead costs (which gets passed to Gateway residents) can afford to bid. And that’s why we’re only getting bids from firms that can cut a check for $100,000 just for the bid bond without even blinking. Because the project was designed to be expensive.

No matter what happens at today’s meeting, no matter what else has been said by the Sun, or Tinkle, or Tetra Tech, or anyone else, keep in mind that this project is not legally necessary. Our public records request proved that there are no outstanding orders from the South Florida Water Management District. Period.

I don’t care how Tinkle spins it with talk of being pro-active and permits and whatnot, the question is binary. Is there an outstanding order to fix ponds or not? The answer is no.

Even if there was an order from the SFWMD to get the Phase 2 ponds in to compliance – which there isn’t – there’s no evidence to suggest that they would require the assessment bloating techniques that Tinkle and Tetra Tech have required and implemented. We have proven that compliance can be achieved in far more cost-effective ways with the discovery of the Walnut Creek Lake Bank Restoration Project.

Another Sun reader pointed out on social media yesterday that there hasn’t been an uproar. But think about why that is.

Half the people in Gateway live on ponds, and many of them have seen how the Phase 1 ponds ended up looking. They look spectacular, and so those people want their ponds to look like that too at taxpayer expense. So of course they’re sitting silently. They’re waiting for their turn.

But is this project about compliance? Or is this project about property improvements?

Because there’s also the other half of Gateway to think about, who don’t live on ponds.

Their money has been taken to do FAR MORE than to just get the first five ponds in to compliance. How is this whole thing being fair to them?

The argument that everyone must chip in because the ponds are a stormwater retention system that benefits everyone is completely valid. But there’s no proof that improving the ponds so that they look like they belong at Buckingham Palace will help with rain water. And the aesthetic upgrades is exactly what happened in Phase 1, and would happen in Phase 2.

And let’s not forget the two fast ones GSCDD staff and District Engineer tried to pull. When they only put 6 ponds out of the 8 remaining from the first facilities plan up for bid, did they even MENTION that it was because they were wrong about the repair costs? Not that I saw.

Just business as usual. Nothing to see. No mention that the two ponds that are being left out are the large ponds that they won’t have enough money to fix with what they told the community it would take to implement the first facilities plan. GOOD THING NOBODY WILL FIGURE THAT ONE OUT.

And “Contract 1”? Are you bleeping kidding me?

The GSCDD staff (correctly) admits that the Phase 2 bid paperwork was in such a state that all of the bids had to be tossed. But then they had the big, giant, enormous cojones to suggest that “hey, you know, if the board really wanted to be pro-active … they could award Contract 1 anyway despite the bidding errors. All the other bids would be tossed, obviously. Buuuut I mean, the staff could support the awarding of Contract 1. If that’s what the board wanted to do.”

OH, HEY, STAFF? YOU KIND OF FORGOT TO MENTION THAT “CONTRACT 1” IS FOR THE GSCDD CHAIRMAN’S POND. GOOD THING NOBODY FIGURED THAT ONE OUT EITHER.

Tinkle will come to today’s meeting prepared to justify the spending, because this whole thing is his baby.

But no matter what he says to try and get you in to a trance, agreeing with him, he cannot escape the fact that there are no outstanding orders from the SFWMD.

And until there are, everything we do is up to us. No matter what all Tinkle says, do not forget that. As it stands right now, the entire project is VOLUNTARY.

Don’t forget that Tinkle has both said that if the SFMWD came out here and inspected all of our ponds, we’d be in trouble! Big trouble! … while also saying to me, “Jeff, the SFWMD isn’t going to come out and inspect all our ponds! They don’t want to be the bad guy!”

But even if they did come out, which apparently they won’t, would we really be in trouble?

It’s not as if they’re going to come straight out of the gate with a fine. They’re going to say: “We received a complaint about Lake ABC, you have 30 days to come up with a plan to fix it.”

And then even if they do say that, they’re not going to say: “… and by the way, while other communities can fix ponds for 60 grand and we’re perfectly happy with that, we think Gateway should spend 10 or 20 times that amount implementing the most expensive fix possible. And don’t forget the white stones. They’re super pretty.”

So what is the Gateway Sun suggesting? I’m glad you asked.

Short term? That’s easy. You don’t have enough valid bids to proceed with Phase 2. So toss them. (Yes, even Margaret’s pond.)

Long term, you can go one of two ways.

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OPTION 1:

Since you just saved $2.1 million, use some of that money to hire somebody who works for (or used to work for) the SFWMD or a comparable agency and ask them to do an independent assessment of Gateway’s ponds. But Tinkle and Tetra Tech should not be involved in their hiring under any circumstances.

Then do what needs to be done to get in to compliance. No more, no less.

Emphasis on the “No more”.

OPTION 2:

Do nothing until you receive a notice from the SFWMD.

Seriously, just don’t do anything. Wait until the SFWMD comes to Gateway and says “fix it.”

And whatever you do, do not let Tetra Tech or Tinkle craft any more bid packages.

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In reality either option would save Gateway residents millions, and likely tens of millions of dollars. The bottom line should be the bottom line.

Everything we have discovered and shared points to one inescapable conclusion: under Tinkle’s leadership, the GSCDD has gone way overboard with the Lake Bank Restoration Project.

The Board of Supervisors took an oath to serve the residents of Gateway. Not to serve Tetra Tech, or engineers who are hoping for the work, or Ed Tinkle.

There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to rethink this thing. And today presents an opportunity to do just that.

For Gateway’s sake, let’s hope the Supervisors takes advantage of that opportunity.

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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