As property values have declined in recent years in Winnebago County, Illinois, the amount of money available to the county for services such as landscape maintenance has dropped along with the decline in tax revenue.
In response, Purchasing Director Roman Gray has decided to change how the county pays for its landscaping service by joining the ranks of local governments that negotiate a flat fee.
“If the weather is dry, you won’t have to mow as much,” Gray told landscapers in a pre-bid meeting, according to the Rockford Register Star. “If we get a lot of rain, you’ll have to mow more frequently. But that will be on you. You’ll get paid a flat amount, either way, and the cost of your labor and materials will all be rolled into that.”
The county previously paid vendors at an hourly rate and had a number of payroll documents and timesheets it had to keep up with.
“It’s was an easier way to manage it, and it’s a common thing to bid it out this way,” Gray said. “We know we may end up on the short end of the stick, or the vendor, so we decided on using a four-year contract so things could level out over the years.”
The previous company employed by the county at an hourly rate was ADV Enterprises. The county paid the company $160,000 last year, but Gray pointed out that, in addition to routine landscaping work, ADV was paid for a number of one-time services such as stump removal and storm debris cleanups.
When contacted, ADV Enterprises owner Jim McIntyre said that he would probably submit a bid on the flat-rate contract but felt someone else would probably get the job.
“My flat rate will be different than someone else’s,” McIntyre said. “I’ve done it for quite a few years so I know how much it will take me, but someone else won’t know how much it will, and they’ll cost less.”
McIntyre prefers the hourly-rate system because he knows he’s getting paid for all his work, while flat rates can sometimes result in having to do more work than you’ve estimated for.
Gray is hopeful the flat-rate contract will challenge landscapers to find cost-effective ways to save on labor.
“This kind of leverages the capitalist mindset,” Gray said. “If they can find a way to attack our project most efficiently and economically, they’re going to win the bid.”
As of now, the county isn’t set on any certain price point; it will simply have to look at what the landscapers offer in their bids.
While ADV Enterprises prefers doing hourly jobs, Tyler’s Landscaping sees flat rates as easier for themselves and their customers. While the company is not bidding on Winnebago County, a representative from Tyler’s Landscaping felt other companies definitely would prepare bids because flat rates are simpler.
The landscaping company that wins the bid will be responsible for maintaining the courthouse, administrative buildings and parking lots in the county. Gray simply wants things neat and tidy.
Landscaping services other than mowing and mulching, such as shrub placement or miscellaneous cleanup, will still be paid on an hourly rate.