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The city of Palm Coast has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by bringing work in-house.
In a departure from a trend that has seen the Palm Coast City Council consistently vote to bring more and more projects in-house to save money, the council voted 4-1 earlier this month to forego $50,000 in projected savings and continue to outsource lawn-maintenance work with a Palm Coast company, Fox Landscaping Inc.
That’s good news for Fox, but it brings into focus an issue that has perturbed private companies and taxpayers alike: When the city decides to do a project in-house, it might save money, but it’s also one fewer project that could provide business to private companies.
S.E. Cline Construction, a Flagler County-based private construction company, has been hired by the city to do many construction projects in the past few years. Scott Sowers, president of S.E. Cline, said projects such as the maintenance and daily running of the water and sewer should be maintained by the city, but new infrastructure should be bid out.
“There are certain governmental-type things that (the city) has to have its finger on,” Sowers said. “But when they get into landscaping and road construction, there’s no way it can be cost-effective to do that in-house.”
According to Sowers, the Florida Department of Transportation for the past several years has been contracting out all services. Primarily, FDOT simply monitors the contracts, Sowers said.
But City Councilmen Bill McGuire sees great wisdom in doing more projects in-house, when it can save taxpayer dollars.
In the past few years, the city has shifted many projects from bids in the private sector to doing them in-house, including creating FiberNET — the city’s open-access fiber network. By creating its own network, the city has saved approximately $362,000 since the program was implemented about four years ago.
The addition of four new fields at the Indian Trails Sports Complex, which was completed in accelerated time to accommodate organizers who wanted to bring large athletics tournaments to town, was created by city crews. That project saved the city approximately $300,000.
The city also took over the swale rehabilitation program, brought valley gutter replacements in-house, took over mowing of the ditches, and implemented a billing process for utility billing.
When the one-year extension of Fox’s contract first appeared on a City Council workshop agenda, McGuire asked city staff to research the cost of bringing the lawn-maintenance work in-house, as well.
Tony Capela, streets superintendent for the city, presented an outline Feb. 7, projecting more than $50,000 in savings if the city crews were to take over the work.
McGuire was the only member of the council to vote to bring the work in-house. He said the transition could take place within 90 days.
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