With the Lake Bank Restoration Project consisting of 64 ponds that the Gateway Services District says need to be repaired, the district has been breaking them up in to small groups and putting them out for bid.

In Phase 1, which consisted of five ponds, the winning (and losing) companies bid on repairing a total of 16,673 lineal feet of pond banks spread across the five ponds.

Calculating the winning bids, those first five were repaired at a cost of $226.35 per lineal foot when you include materials. And that was for the crème de la crème top of the line fix available with a material called “TRM”.

But with the Phase 1 costs coming in much higher than they anticipated the GSCDD knew they needed to cut down the costs. So they decided to have the next group of ponds fixed with a hybrid of TRM and something called “non-woven geotextile fabric.”

Phase 2 was put out for bid, consisting of another 6 ponds. According to project documents, 44% of Phase 2 is to include the lesser quality geotextile fabric.

On February 19, the bids were unsealed. Two companies had bid on all six ponds, while one compay bid on just two.

Due to paperwork errors from one of the companies that bid on all of the ponds, as well as the company who bid on just two, that left only one valid bidder. The bids would have to be tossed and the project put out for bid again.

But since two companies did bid on all 6, it’s worth taking a look at what they would charge the district to perform the work.

We’ll start with the company whose paperwork was in order. They also happened to be the lowest bidder, coming in at $2,110,288.20 for all 8,777 lineal feet in Phase 2.

That works out to a cost of $240.43 per lineal foot.

That means that despite the fact that lesser quality fixes were being implemented on roughly half of the lake banks in Phase 2, the over-all project costs would have still increased by 6% per lineal foot.

Not a good sign.

In regards to the second bidder for all 6 ponds in Phase 2, the numbers only got worse. That company came in at $3,441,150 – or $392.06 per lineal foot. Nearly double the Phase 1 costs – and again, with half the ponds being fixed with lesser quality material.

In a memo to the Supervisors the GSCDD’s Public Works Manager Michael Tisch said “Staff is not comfortable moving forward with just one bidder. Staff is confident we could get a much better price by re-bidding the lakes. If the Board feels strongly about moving forward with something now, staff could support the District Engineer’s suggestion to award Contract 1, and re-bidding the rest of the lake projects later this year.”

Am I missing something?

They literally just did put them out for bid. Anybody who wanted to bid on the contracts could have submitted a bid.

All the usual notifications were published, and these were the only bids they received.

But now that the bidding process was botched Tisch is telling the Supervisors that if they put them out for bid once again, new lower-cost bidders are expected emerge? Thus saving the district money? I don’t understand Tisch’s statement.

It was extremely surprising to see the staff come out and say they weren’t comfortable proceeding with just one bidder, and then add that if the board wanted to they could at least award Contract 1. A strange suggestion to say the least.

Further digging in to the details, the Gateway Sun discovered that Contract 1 contained Chairman Margaret Fineberg’s pond. When you add in that Supervisor Ed Tinkle’s pond was magically one of the first 5 to be completed, it’s pretty clear the GSCDD is prioritizing the Supervisors’ lakes.

Here is a bottom line summary of the Lake Bank Restoration Project to date:

The first three test ponds all failed and had to be re-done.

Phase 1 of the actual project came in so high over budget that they couldn’t afford to put all the remaining ponds from the initial facilities plan up for bid in Phase 2.

Phase 2 was only half the lineal feet it should have been with Lakes 92 and 124 excluded. And now despite the fact that half the project calls for a lesser fix, costs still managed to INCREASE.

I’m not saying I could do better. But I’m also not the one telling the Board of Supervisors and residents of Gateway that I know what I’m doing and that you should just trust me.

Tinkle and Tetra Tech are saying that, and so far their leadership on this project has provided disappointing news and massive cost increases every single step of the way.


True story:

Over the last several years, Tinkle has told the rest of the board that the Lake Bank Restoration Project is non-negotiable and must be completed, because the SFWMD are a bunch of bad-asses who are not to be messed with.

It turns out he’s speaking from experience.

Several years ago when Tinkle was the president of the Gateway Golf & County Club, somebody drove a tractor on a protected wetland that was on golf club property.

The SFWMD fined the GGCC about $8,000.

Tinkle decided to be “pro-active” back then, too.

Without informing the rest of the GGCC board, Tinkle fought the fine. The SFWMD was forced to get lawyers, consultants etc involved, increasing the costs every step of the way.

With penalties and costs, the fine eventually reached as high as $130,000 on what began as an $8,000 infraction.

The rest of the GGCC board stepped in, yanked Tinkle’s chain back, formally reprimanded him, and the GGCC ended up settling with the SFWMD for a lesser amount.

So Tinkle’s history does give him a reason to fear the SFWMD.

But Tinkle’s history also shows he has a way of taking a relatively small problem with the SFWMD and turning it in to a huge one.

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

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