Kempner council approves landscaping bid despite disagreement
The Kempner City Council approved landscaping proposals last Tuesday, although the vote was divided because of a disagreement about the bidding process.
The council voted 4-1, with Councilman John Wilkerson dissenting, to accept Salado-based Chick Landscaping Inc.'s proposal of $4,970.70 for work at City Hall and Sylvia Tucker Memorial Park.
The city also received a proposal from Hill Country Solutions, based in Kempner.
The city released each company's bid to the Dispatch Record after the newspaper submitted an open records request.
For the same items Chick Landscaping listed -- plants, weed barrier, river rock and labor -- Hill Country Solutions bid $4,866.70. The Kempner company, however, also proposed to offer the following services and prices:
• mowing and trimming at City Hall, $150.
• mowing and trimming at the park, $625.
• pressure washing, including on sidewalks and in parking lots. For that service, the company listed the price as "TBD, pending on location/item."
Chick Landscaping's proposal is the lowest offer, Mayor Keith Harvey said, because Hill Country Solutions "still has, say, depending on whatever is additional."
In an email Wednesday to the Dispatch Record, Wilkerson noted Hill Country Solutions' written proposal included mowing services, which Chick Landscaping's written proposal did not.
In other follow-up comments after last week's meeting, Wilkerson said he is concerned that the council awarded the landscaping job -- and taxpayer money --to a company from outside Kempner and Lampasas County.
As the council discussed the agenda item, much of the deliberation related to documentation.
Wilkerson said some landscaping is needed, but he asked for "an exact description of the work to be done." The councilman said the proposal sheets are not detailed enough to hold a contractor accountable if the job is not done according to city specifications.
Harvey told Wilkerson the council has received everything it requested on the landscaping matter -- including contacts to local companies to invite them to bid, and what Harvey described as a detailed itemization of the work to be done. He also said Wilkerson chose not to attend a tour to see the areas where landscaping will take place.
After last week's council meeting, Wilkerson commented about the recent tour.
"We have more important issues to deal with than walking the park," Wilkerson said.
Policy matters have occupied much of his attention as a councilman lately, he said. The council discussed multiple policies last week and is reviewing two different proposals -- one submitted by Wilkerson -- for a policy that would address how council meetings shall be conducted. Wilkerson's proposed ordinance -- which cites "the need for the City Council as the Governing Body to restrict and or control the duties of the Mayor" -- specifies a way for the council to override decisions made by the mayor.
On the landscaping matter, Wilkerson said he wants written documents, such as drawings or schematics, that show what work the city is requesting in exactly what spots. Wilkerson said without an exact description of the job to be performed, the city cannot ensure a contractor is accountable for its work.
Harvey said the city has addressed what the council requested on the matter, and he said it was Wilkerson's choice not to attend the tour where information was offered about the landscaping projects.
The council talked in detail June 25 about specific landscaping items, Harvey said, and he said council members who toured the park received a description of the upcoming work. Harvey said by opting out of the tour, Wilkerson communicated that he had more important things to do.
"You can't say 'I don't have it. I didn't get it,' " Harvey said. "You opted out. And everything council asked for, they have." Wilkerson reiterated that he wants an itemized description.
"Mr. Mayor, when I read this [proposal], it says 'plants, weed paper, sod staples,' " Wilkerson said. "Where exactly is that going to go? What description do I have that says this is where ..."
Harvey interjected at that point, contending that the description that has been provided explains the work plan sufficiently.
"Where does weed barrier go, sir?" the mayor asked. "You telling me you don't know where weed barrier goes? You telling me you don't know that plants go in the ground?
"It's not condescending," Harvey continued. "I'm asking you a question."
Harvey told Wilkerson trees will be planted by the veterans' wall at the park, as well as at City Hall. Trees will be trimmed at the park and at City Hall, he added. That information was presented two council meetings ago, Harvey said.
"Everyone took copious notes," the mayor said. "I can't understand why we don't understand. I really don't."
After the meeting, Wilkerson said he felt Harvey had insulted his intelligence. The councilman said he is smart enough to understand the project, and he said his point is that to protect public interests, the city needs more detailed written documentation.
Councilman Mack Ruskiewicz, who said he toured the areas where landscaping will be performed, said he talked to a contractor about the project.
"Where the city has problems [is that] contractors come out and they look at it, and then they never get back," Ruskiewicz said.
During a budget workshop earlier in the evening, Harvey made similar comments about the difficulty in getting companies to respond.
The landscaping prices presented to the council "are not outrageous," Ruskiewicz said.
Councilman Bob Crane asked if the work will be done in the current fiscal year. The project will be funded through a budget amendment in August, Harvey said.
In another matter during last week's budget workshop, Wilkerson suggested the council consider having Kempner pay the county for its road and bridge crews to do street work in the city. Harvey said he will contact Precinct 1 Commissioner Bobby Carroll, who represents areas on the east side of the county.
Kempner officials also talked last week about plans to add two reserve officers to the police department -- which has two full-time officers and one reserve. Depending on how the application process goes, one or more reserves could be added before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, Harvey said.
The goal in increasing the size of the police force, the mayor said, is to enhance public safety.
Also at last week's meeting, the City Council unanimously approved two Lampasas Central Appraisal District budget items. In one of the votes, the council OK'd a budget amendment related to a vehicle reserve, and in the other, the municipal governing body approved LCAD's proposed appraisal and collection budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In other agenda items, the council voted unanimously to approve a city investment policy, comprehensive fund balance policy and Fraud Risk Assessment Program.