The expectations of a new grounds maintenance contract is for the bid-winning company to keep downtown Decatur well-maintained and clean of trash, city officials said.
Representatives of nine companies attended a pre-bid meeting Thursday morning for mowing, general maintenance and trash pickup for city properties in the area from Bank Street to Sixth Avenue and Gordon Drive to Lee Street.
It also will include a strip of property adjacent to Doubletree by Hilton and the Tennessee River bridge. The newly renovated L&N Depot on Railroad Street likely will be an addendum to the initial bid package, as a piece of property adjacent to the Alabama Center for the Arts on Second Avenue Northeast was removed.
Wally Terry, the city’s director of development, said the $500,000 streetscape project for Lee Street improvements started Thursday. Purchasing agent Charles Booth said he did not know how this will impact the bid requirements.
The companies pre-qualified to submit bids for the contract by the 3 p.m. March 1 deadline.
Paul Floyd, Parks and Recreation facilities and operations manager, told company representatives, “We want a constant presence for trash pickup. We want a trash patrol on a daily basis.”
A full-time Parks and Recreation employee was devoted to trash pickup before the city contracted out the downtown grounds maintenance three years ago, Floyd said.
“It looked good, but I’m not telling you how many people you need to devote to trash pickup or how often it needs to be picked up,” Floyd said.
Floyd said the city will continue emptying the trash cans in the area, and he understands that occasionally someone will litter or a business will overstuff its trash bin.
Cigarette butts are a major problem in the parking lots and flower beds, Floyd said.
“All we’re looking for is a litter-free look and for you to understand you need to make that happen,” Floyd said. “Trash pickup is a big deal.”
Superior Lawn Care won the contract three years ago, and owner Heath Legg said he underestimated how much work would be required in keeping downtown Decatur clean.
Legg said Monday cleanup after residents spend the weekend partying is particularly heavy. Cleanups after events such as 3rd Friday, the Christmas parade and Carnegie Carnival also are demanding.
“There were a lot of beads (after the Carnegie parades),” Legg said.
Legg said the city’s new Entertainment District, which allows open-carry of alcohol, created a major increase in people dropping their empty cups. His crew usually picks up litter on weekdays in the morning and sometimes does it again after lunch, Legg said.
City Councilman Roger Anders, whose District 2 includes the downtown area, said he has been pleased with Superior’s work in maintaining the flower beds and keeping the area litter- and weed-free.
“They’ve done a good job,” Anders said.
Anders said he would like to see the city use its pressure washer on the sidewalks.
“We bought that pressure washer several years ago, and we haven’t used it very much,” Anders said.
Superior won the initial 2013 contract with a bid of $2,483 a month, or $29,801 a year. The city added almost $9,900 to the contract last year to maintain the new streetscape improvements to Bank Street Northeast.
It’s unclear how much the city budgeted for downtown grounds maintenance in fiscal 2016 because the expense is included in a $99,000 line item for contract services.
Booth said the high number of companies interested in bidding and the low cost of gas should help lower the contract price.
This is one of two areas in which the city has a grounds maintenance contract. Booth said he is preparing to send out bid requests for the city’s rights-of-ways, ditches and alleys contract.
While this contract has been controversial, with Councilman Billy Jackson complaining that rights of way and alleys aren’t mowed enough, Anders said he doesn’t think the contract needs to be expanded.
Anders said he would like for businesses and residents to take on more of the rights of way and alleys upkeep.
“We need to remind people that the city and residents need to work together,” Anders said. “This is a pride issue, and people don’t have any pride if they won’t take care of their ditches and alleys. The city can’t do everything.”