We have some good news to report.

Actually, it’s great news.

Each household in Timber Ridge should save over $100 per year on community landscaping costs, all thanks to the group of residents who contacted this publication.

You may recall earlier this year that the entire three-person Timber Ridge HOA board resigned. One board member quit in protest after the residents refused to grant the board sweeping new powers, and the other two quit when the community learned that individuals directly involved Personal Touch Landscaping had been in control of their HOA board – and repeatedly awarded Personal Touch the community landscaping contract without allowing other companies to bid on it.

The HOA President for many years had been Personal Touch owner Rob Eisner, and when Eisner moved he passed the torch to his employee who lived in Timber Ridge, Dan Ziegler.

You would think that since they had to look their neighbors in the eye every day that Eisner and Ziegler would give their own community a fair price. But if you thought that, you would be wrong.

According to documents obtained this past July, over a recent one-year period every household paid Personal Touch $440 for community landscaping services. The Gateway Sun was alerted to the fact that the landscaping contract was expiring but that Ziegler was going to quietly renew it with his company again without going out for bids.

That definitely did seem to be the case, because the work that would have been needed to be done to put the project out to bid had not even been started – yet it should have nearly been completed by that point. Plus, the last time the contract was up for renewal, Ziegler declared that since “nobody was complaining” that he would just renew the deal with Personal Touch, which he did.

At first I asked Ziegler to put the contract up for bid, but he refused. Then I began applying pressure behind the scenes, and Ziegler shrugged it off. In July we went public with the situation, and only after the eruption of anger from the community did Ziegler relent and agree to put the contract up for bid.

Zeigler also resigned from the board shortly thereafter.

By the end of September a new HOA board had been elected by Timber Ridge residents. Obviously, the new board had been given a mandate to put the landscaping contract up for bid, which they did.

Four bids were received, with two of them being competitive enough to consider. (The Sun has obtained all four bid packets.)

The two lowest bids were Personal Touch at $47,299 – or $326 per household, an instant $114 savings per family per year. (See what competitive bidding does, Mr. Ziegler?)… and Estate Scape Services at $47,664.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that there were some shenanigans during this bidding process. However – and remember that I don’t have a dog in this fight – the situations that came up were resolved in a reasonably fair way, in my opinion.

I’ll explain.

Personal Touch submitted an incomplete bid package. Specifically, they did not include any amount for mulch. Some might think that the incomplete bid should immediately have Personal Touch’s bid tossed out. The board did not take that step. Instead the board utilized the mulch figure from the most recent Personal Touch contract and included it as part of the current bid.

Not a good look, I agree.

Estate Scape’s bid did include an amount for mulch – but it was open ended.

What I mean is that Estate Scape bid $2,304 for mulch for the first 575 bags, and then $4 per bag after that. But it might have been a thousand extra bags, or five thousand extra bags.

I spoke with the Timber Ridge board at length and they were so uncomfortable with the lack of cost certainty that they were going to award the contract to Personal Touch.

When I reminded them that Personal Touch had submitted an incomplete bid package and that Estate Scape could have grounds for a lawsuit if they discovered this, the board contacted their property manager for advice. The property manager told the board they could proceed how they saw fit.

Keep in mind that the property manager was kept in place by Personal Touch for years, so there is a conflict of interest there.

So here’s what I did. I contacted Estate Scape myself to explain what was happening, and I told them the only fair thing to do was to provide a firm figure for mulch that they would stand by and include in the bid.

Since Personal Touch was allowed to amend their bid by the HOA board to make it acceptable, I felt Estate Scape should be provided the same opportunity.

I gave no indication to Estate Scape as to what Personal Touch’s bid was, because I’m not like some of the other people involved in this situation.

Estate Scape provided a final mulch figure and so we are now left with Personal Touch’s $47,299 bid versus Estate Scape’s $47,664. The other two bids were $51,458 and $59,736.

Regardless of who the board chooses, every family in Timber Ridge will save over $100 per year as was previously mentioned.

But with the difference between the lowest two bids being $0.20 per month per household, price is no longer the main factor.

Ultimately, the board must decide if they’re going to hold Personal Touch accountable for their past transgressions, or if they’re going to take a clean-slate approach.

On one hand, I will tell you that the current board has done every single thing they possibly could to award this contract to Personal Touch. So if you’re in favor of awarding the contract to Estate Scape simply because you’ve been ripped off by Personal Touch for years and you’re upset about that, you should let the board know.

On the other hand, Personal Touch has done a good job in Timber Ridge by all accounts. So if you want to move on from the past and ensure continuity with the landscaping, then you should either let the board know, or do nothing since PT will be the default choice of the board.

I don’t know if emails sent to the official Timber Ridge HOA address would be intercepted by the property manager. So just to be safe I would send any messages directly to the board members.

If you live in Timber Ridge and you need your board’s contact information please email me at jkuntz@gatewaysun.com and I will provide it.

UPDATE: You can send any emails to timberridgegatewayhoa@gmail.com … which goes to all 3 current board members and nobody else.

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

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