Gateway Sun

The contract between the Gateway Services Community Development District and engineering firm Tetra Tech will expire pretty soon. That means the Supervisors must decide to either keep Tetra Tech in the role of District Engineer, or to award the job to one of four other companies who have shown interest in the position.

It’s probably the most important contract the GSCDD awards, because Gateway’s official engineering firm holds tremendous influence over your elected officials.

Most of the current Supervisors don’t have engineering credentials, so that means the board members often must defer to whatever the District Engineer says needs to be done. It can end up causing expensive boondoggles and unnecessary spending. I’m not going to re-hash old issues *COUGH*lakebankrestoration*COUGH* but let’s just say there’s been some questionable advice here and there and the Supervisors were in no position to refute what they’d been told.

Recently, however, the board has shown they are indeed capable of keeping Tetra Tech in check. Limiting the scope of the sewer clean-out pilot phase being the most recent example.

In addition to Tetra Tech, the other firms that have shown interest in being Gateway’s District Engineer include Craig A. Smith & Associates, Kisinger Campo & Associates, as well as Weston & Sampson. District staff have recommended each of those firms give a 30-minute presentation to the board on June 7.

While we don’t much about any of these companies, based on the documents they submitted all four have sizable operations and appear to have plenty of resources and expertise.

If there is a change to be made, a few firms may have some inside connections.

Craig A. Smith & Associates are the District Engineer for the Spring Lake Improvement District. Spring Lake is managed by Joe DeCerbo, a GSCDD consultant who is highly regarded by Gateway’s board. A recommendation from DeCerbo would carry tremendous weight with Gateway’s Supervisors.

Kisinger Campo would essentially make Gateway resident Paul Wingard the District Engineer. His official title would be Program Manager, but an organization chart shows that Wingard would be the main person in charge of the Kisinger-GSCDD relationship. But if a high level of transparency is something that matters to you, the prospect of Wingard being Gateway’s top engineer isn’t a good thing.

You may recall that earlier this year Wingard was directly involved in a bizarre effort to prevent the Waterford Village HOA’s finances from being audited. Wingard wrote multiple times expressing his opposition to an audit, ironically saying that finding out exactly where money was spent would be a “poor financial strategy.” Keep in mind that Wingard had been an HOA board member in the past, so he would have had direct control over what the HOA spent money on in previous years.

Facing pressure from the residents, the HOA board announced there would be an audit vote after-all. However, suspicions intensified among the residents when the voting question was published and it said … and this is true … that the audit would only include 2018’s finances, and nothing earlier. Obviously the residents (and even one HOA board member) were trying to get to the bottom of some spending that had happened in the past – not spending that was going to happen during the upcoming year.

And I don’t think we’ve ever told this part of the story, but things came to a head during the very next HOA elections when some candidates ran on the promise of opening and examining the books, and Wingard went so far as to run in the election himself. Wingard won, rejoining the HOA board and squashing any hope the residents had for an audit.

While Wingard’s HOA activities would have no bearing on his engineering capabilities, the Supervisors may find it difficult to get answers from Wingard if he doesn’t want you to look too closely at the information you seek.

It should be noted that a fifth firm named Hagen Engineering also applied for the “job”, however GSCDD staff recommended that the Supervisors not even consider that firm due to fact they don’t employ very many people. It seems unlikely the board would ignore that recommendation from the staff, so I would imagine Hagen is out of the running for consideration.

But the good news is that the board does have some good options available to pick from. We should know who they intend to award the contract to next month.

In my opinion, Supervisor Ed Tinkle will probably want to keep Tetra Tech around. Chairman Margaret Fineberg may want to as well. Conversely, I believe that Supervisor Kathleen Flaherty will want to make a change and will press for a new District Engineer.

Vice Chairman Bill Guy is a bit harder to predict in situations like this. He’s generally open-minded, and in my opinion I don’t think he cares either way whether Tetra Tech stays or goes. So he’ll probably wait until he hears from the other companies before he makes up his mind.

Supervisor Doug Banks seems to prefer continuity, which is a good thing if you’re Tetra Tech. But if one of the other engineering firms absolutely nails it on June 7 and Tetra Tech comes out flat, then I believe Banks would consider switching. That said, if all things are equal and nobody really stands out as a clear-cut better option than what Gateway has today, I believe Banks would vote to keep Tetra Tech.

Obviously, I could be completely wrong about one or all of these predictions. But based on my observations, it’s Tetra Tech’s job to lose at this point.

 

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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