Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo City Commission expands Buccaneer Landscaping's contract

LARGO — The lawn surrounding the Largo Municipal Complex — buildings along Highland Avenue that are home to City Hall and the Largo Police Department — looks fine at first glance. It's mostly green, with a few small brown patches.

The grass is about 4 to 6 inches long — a problematic length if you're talking about a golf course fairway, but the Largo Municipal Complex isn't a golf course.

That lawn has drawn golf course-level scrutiny lately, though, because of who cuts it and how much it costs. The months-long debate reached closure Tuesday night, when city commissioners decided to award the lawn maintenance job to the private company that was already doing it, despite the strong objections of two commissioners and a union representative.

Buccaneer Landscape Management has cared for some of the city's properties for several years. As city administrators looked for ways to cut costs this year, they discussed outsourcing more groundskeeping. City commissioners agreed to give Buccaneer more work, but to keep "signature" properties — namely, Largo Central Park — under the care of the city's maintenance crew.

After that decision, which saved the city an estimated $62,700 per year, another city maintenance worker left, dropping the staff from four to three. Rather than hire a replacement, the administration decided to give Buccaneer additional work — Largo Community Center, Ulmer Park and the Municipal Complex. Buccaneer's crew has been cutting and watering the grass and bushes around City Hall since July or August, according to the company's president.

Changing the city's contract with Buccaneer needed commission approval, though. Commissioners voted 4-2 to approve the change Tuesday night (Mayor Pat Gerard was absent), making it permanent. Buccaneer will care for those added properties for two years, through June 2014.

Buccaneer is charging the city $24,900 per year to maintain those three added properties, a savings of $6,100 over what it would have cost Largo to hire another groundskeeper. The city is paying Buccaneer $181,400 yearly to maintain lawns on more than 30 properties, like parks, medians along city roadways and at several city buildings, including the Largo Public Library.

The decision to give Buccaneer more work came over the objection of Dawn Smolowitz, spokeswoman for the Communication Workers of America, which represents Largo's groundskeeping crew.

"We believe a city worker will do a better job than a contractor," Smolowitz said. "Do you really want the Community Center, Largo Municipal Complex and Ulmer Park to decline below accepted standards?"

Commissioners Michael Smith and Harriet Crozier agreed. Smith said the bushes around City Hall looked terrible.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes disagreed with both the assessment of City Hall's bushes, and the risks of outsourcing more grounds work.

"We're getting the same job done for $6,100 less," he said. "We're supposed to be the guardians of the treasury here . . . This isn't rocket science. This is cutting the lawn."

Chris Witherington, president of Pinellas Park-based Buccaneer, says any problems his company had this summer with handling the extra properties were due to mixed signals from City Hall.

"It became kind of a political thing, and we ended up in the middle of it," said Witherington, whose company also mows lawns for Clearwater, Sarasota, Pinellas County and several other cities and counties.

"I think the complaints are coming from union personnel," Witherington said. "We are under the microscope more than we've ever been."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Largo City Commission expands Buccaneer Landscaping's contract 11/24/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 7:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.