September 3, 2009 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley park upkeep pact OK’d

City will award seven-year contract through competitive bidding
By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Valley City Council members endorsed a staff proposal Tuesday to offer a seven-year contract for park maintenance.

The contract, to take effect in January, would be two years longer than the expiring five-year agreement with Kennewick-based Senske Lawn and Tree Care.

Unlike the current contract, decided by an evaluation of proposals, the new one will be awarded through competitive bidding.

Parks Director Mike Stone said 10 to 15 percent of the work involves equipment repair, which state law says must be done by the lowest bidder. It’s difficult to separate equipment repair from “vegetation management,” so the whole contract should be put to bid, Stone said.

He proposed a seven-year contract as a compromise because he thought five years was too short and the council wouldn’t be comfortable with anything longer. Stone said he thought a new contractor would need a year or two to learn the job fully.

The city could review the contractor’s performance annually and cancel the contract if necessary, but a longer term would give the city experienced workers while providing more security for the contractor, Stone said.

“I’m with you on that,” said Councilman Ian Robertson.

Councilman Gary Schimmels said he thought a contract should last at least three years, and “five is comfortable.” He said he would support a seven-year award if that’s what other council members want.

Mayor Rich Munson was absent, but the rest of the council supported the proposal in an informal consensus.

Councilman Bill Gothmann thought the seven-year contract would encourage the winning bidder to provide better or more appropriate equipment, and the relatively long five-year contract with Senske has worked well.

“I just think Senske has done an absolutely marvelous job for us,” Gothmann said.

With a series of 2 percent annual increases, payments to Senske have risen to $646,520 this year.

Stone said he hopes to solicit bids this month and present them to the council in October.

In another consensus during Tuesday’s biweekly “study session,” the council agreed an overhaul of its governance manual should change study sessions from special to regular meetings. That way, the council can make last-minute additions to agendas as it already can for regular biweekly business meetings.

State law requires special-meeting agendas to be published 24 hours in advance.

The law contemplates meetings people wouldn’t know about except for the 24-hour notice, but the Spokane Valley council’s study sessions are as regular as its business meetings. The council meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday at City Hall, alternating between business and study sessions.

With Councilwoman Rose Dempsey dissenting, the council decided to stick with a rule that requires council meetings to end at 9 p.m. unless the council votes to extend a session.

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