WESLEY CHAPEL — A South Florida company hired to maintain grass along state roads in Pasco and Hernando counties has been replaced after defaulting on two contracts.
Pro-Evergreen Unlimited, Inc. won bids on two contracts to cut grass and remove litter along state roads in both counties, but the company did not do any of the work, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, which awarded the contracts in June.
“The contractor didn’t show up, so he defaulted on the contract,” said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for FDOT. “There were two different contracts and they didn’t show up for the job.
“This has been ongoing for several months and we’ve had to go through several policies and procedures that we have to go through with their bonding company.”
The areas that are overgrown include U.S. Highway 19 in Pasco and Hernando counties as well as state roads 54 and 52 in Pasco.
The bonding company, Merchants Bonding Company in Des Moines, IA, has reassigned the contract to Taylor Maid. The new company will begin Monday and mow through March when a new contract bid will go out, Carson said.
Chris Amoroso, one of the owners of the Pro-Evergreen Unlimited, which is based in Homestead, said he didn’t do the work because he felt his company had been deceived by FDOT.
He said when the bid was put out, it was for a larger total acreage, but when he went to a meeting for details after winning the bid, the amount of land was actually less than advertised.
“When I went to the pre-work meeting — that’s where they tell you when your first mow’s going to be and everything, how they want it done and everything else — I said, OK.
“They slid me over the first work orders and I said, well what happened to all the acres and they said well we’re not going to have those acres for three to five years now.”
He believes it was advertised differently to gain a low bid on the work.
His winning bids were for $189,358.90 and $168,091.20 for the two contracts. Work was to start in July.
He said this is not the first time he has had a problem with a bid from the state. In July, he won a bid in Pinellas County and the area was at least 4-feet high. He said the area hadn’t been mowed in about three months.
Another bid he won, this time in Alachua County in May, had similar conditions. Vegetation had grown several feet high.
Amoroso said he has hired a Tallahassee lawyer to address the matter.
“If I was a business, I could don’t that,” Amoroso said. “I couldn’t advertise a certain project, date it, make it look good and then when they come in, no it’s only this and you have to abide by it. And if you don’t, we’re going to pull your bond and you’re out of business and your life savings are gone.”
Amoroso said the overgrown conditions caused damage to some of his equipment.
Meanwhile, at least one local company has taken matters into its own hands.
Thursday morning, a maintenance crew from Medical Center of Trinity took it upon themselves to mow the median in front of their facility.
“We are proud of our new facility and noticed the median was in need of mowing which we addressed during our normal ground maintenance,” hospital officials said in a statement to The Tampa Tribune. “We were not aware of any issues between the (state) and their contracted vendor nor have we had to mow any other areas at this time.”
In February, Pro-Evergreen won a bid to for herbicide application in Desoto and Hardee counties for $107,678 and a second contract for roadside mowing, litter removal, edging and sweeping in Hardee County. That contract was for $184,858.
Both of those winning bids have a 1-year contract time and remain intact thus far, Amoroso said.
Carson said FDOT has been inundated with complaints from Pasco and Hernando counties.
“We want to make sure our roadways look nice, they don’t look unsightly and they’re clean,” Carson said. “And in the particular areas where the grass is too high, it could present a safety concern in terms of turn traffic, so we want to make sure everything is kept to the standards that we normally have and that it looks nice. We don’t want our roads to look trashy by any means.”