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Palm Coast Approves $425,000 Parasols at 4 City Parks, But Council Members Grumble

| April 19, 2017

Shade Systems, Inc., of Ocala will install the sort of covers seen above at four Palm Coast parks by late summer. (Shade Systems, Facebook)

Shade Systems, Inc., of Ocala will install the sort of covers seen above at four Palm Coast parks by late summer. (Shade Systems, Facebook)

Despite serious misgivings about cost and a bidding process that left them with little choice, the five Palm Coast City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $425,000 plan to install “shades” over playground equipment at four city parks by late summer. The shades–essentially, differently-designed and oversize parasols that extend over certain areas–will be installed at Waterfront, Belle Terre, Ralph Carter and Seminole Woods parks.

The 40-minute discussion however exposed the extent to which some council members are dissatisfied with being kept in the dark by the administration about the details of costly projects until the tail end of the process, when they’re asked for a vote—and a no vote could harm the city’s reputation with contractors.

The shades project also signaled again that the city is still more prepared to spend large sums on comfort or luxury items than on street lights or sidewalks, as one of two people who addressed the council put it. “I suggest that Palm Coast needs to stop looking for ‘nice’ and focus on safety. Safety would include lights and sidewalks,” John Brady, a former mayoral candidate, told the council, quoting from his own letter published in the News-Journal. “We need street lights, sidewalks, not shades, trees or signs.”

That aspect of the issue did not seem to concern council members, at least based on their open discussion, but City Manager Jim Landon’s method of keeping council members at bay until late in the process did.

In this case, council member Nick Klufas took the unusual step, in recent days, to analyze the proposed contract with Shade Systems, Inc., the 13-year-old company based in Ocala the city is contracting with, and raise questions about costs before the matter was presented for a vote Tuesday. He had in essence stepped squarely into Landon’s turf, a step no council member has taken so directly in recent years, though even then it was too late to change course. Klufas and project manager Carl Cote went as far as contacting Shade Systems to investigate the matter.

“I was a little taken aback because $400,000 is a lot for a shade system,” Klufas said. “Now, after investigating the different proposals, I did find that shade systems clearly had the most elaborate and superior design and summation of what they’re going to provide for the city, but inside of their proposal, they had shown examples of what they had previously completed, and there were projects such as Point Park, which is down in Miami, that were similar to a single instance of what we’re going to be installing at the four different parks, and that project had been completed at $79,000. So $79,000 to me times four is less than what they came in at with their contract amount.”

He was more comfortable with $375,000, and making a counter-offer to the contractor. Nobile liked the idea. But the city attorney said the approach would not be possible without going out to bid again.

The difference in price, Cote said, was the greater heights required in Palm Coast, because of the sort of playground equipment used locally. “To me I think we’re right in line with that particular project,” Cote said.

Klufas disagreed. “One of the most pointed questions that we asked was directly why was that project able to come in at $79,000 compared to what we have divided by four, and it was very telling because one of the answers he provided was that he had a competitor bidding in that project and he needed to come in at a lower figure,” he said. “So it means he’s capable of providing the same type of project at the level of quality that we’re expecting, at a lower cost. Taking to account the magnitude of our project, economies of scale would tend to lead you in a direction where that dollar per square foot is actually still on the wrong side of the equation.” ($8,000 was shaved off the cost by eliminating a video rendering of the proposal.)

Klufas’s strongest ally on the issue was council member Steven Nobile, so recently an antagonist. Nobile endorsed Klufas’s approach, but he was concerned about going back on the request for proposals because of the message that might send out to prospective contractors. “I just don’t want to create a bad name for us for $20 or $30,000,” he said. But, he noted, the process revealed a disconnect between administrative work and council awareness that he’s been equally concerned about.

“I completely concur that this might be a little bit too late but perhaps this is an opportunity to discuss how we could have approached this a little bit differently in the future,” Nobile said.

 “Nick brings up something that has been a passion of mine since I’ve been on this board,” Nobile continued. “Getting involved, the council getting involved with these types of processes before we’re sitting here when the process is done. One of the things I proposed a couple of years ago was that like we assign council members to different external organizations, like TPO, TDC”—the Transportation Planning Organization, the Tourist Development Council—“we should be internally assigned to departments so we can work with those departments, not be in charge of anything, just to be a fly on the wall type of scenario. Like Nick sees this and he goes, yeah, I don’t know that I like us doing this, for whatever reason. He can bring that to council before we’re at this point. Because like I say right now, my only problem is I don’t want to turn back, we’ve already invested too much in it, and the process can hurt us if we say give us a bid and say, ah, never mind, we were just kidding, now give us another bid. But these are the things if a council member has an issue, we could bring up before it gets here, and we can discuss it.”

Landon, who bristles at council members looking over his shoulder into the administrative workings of the city, tried to dissuade the approach. “I feel obligated to comment,” he said. The city’s procurement policy, he said, “has to do with state law, it specifically says thou shall not contact or communicate with elected officials who will make the final decision during the selection process. It’s only after we’ve ranked them and made the recommendation, then, if you have questions.”

Landon was broad-brushing the issue, as Klufas reminded him. “The process that would involve some type of overview from city council would occur between the steps of Little John Engineering providing renderings and our determination of what our proposed budget would be,” Klufas said, referring to a city consultant. “I think if our policy—an d I understand the volatility that that creates if you have a firm that’s able to contact a city council member, I understand the transparency being thwarted there—but the actual process would occur in that transition phase where we say, ok, we have the renderings of what we would like to install at these complexes, now is the time when we’re able to set the budget before we go out to bid.”

“In other words we could work around that stuff and still be involved,” Nobile said. Mayor Milissa Holland asked for a workshop on how the RFP and the bidding process works in the city.

Landon said the city has presented concepts to the council before, on larger projects, and that it was a “judgment call” as to which projects were presented ahead of time to council, and which were not. He ended by uttering the words that, like a poker player’s unfailing tell, have often in the past indicated his irascibility or contempt for the way a discussion had veered out of his control: “Good discussion, good feedback.”

Palm Coast Parasols Project (2017)

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37 Responses for “Palm Coast Approves $425,000 Parasols at 4 City Parks, But Council Members Grumble”

  1. suewho says:

    Spending more money and they can’t even get the James Holland finished. It’s 15 months over due. WTH. I watch every day and little to no activity most days just a bunch of city trucks hidden up back its shameful.

  2. GM2 says:

    How could a responsible governing body put something as frivolous as shade for the play grounds over such items as sidewalks and street lights which ensure the safety of citizens?

  3. Layla says:

    Doesn’t Landon work for the Council? Or is it the other way around?

  4. Realist says:

    Every one of these council members need to be recalled and Jim Landon fired. Enough of this waste of taxpayer money. The new plants/flowers/trees on Belle Terre parkway look like someones cousin got the contract and did it. This city has more corruption than I can believe

  5. Brian Larson says:

    Who dreams up these scams…..I highly doubt when people filled out surveys on how our tax dollars should be spent , anyone said they wanted to waste money on this BS…..but if you can skim…. it`s in…..just like the new town hall we told them no on….plenty of empty buildings in empty strip malls all over this place . Kids go to parks for fresh air and sunshine , not to play under filthy rags covered in pine straw , pine pollen, and birds turds…..this is nothing but a way to make themselves more pocket money……because they will be removing them in a year or two when parents complain they don`t want their kids playing under the filthy rags they will quickly become……SMH

  6. W.Ryan says:

    Wait…There is not any means to keep money in Palm Coast among our very own maintenance and work crews or for that matter businesses that can do this kind of thing or that can come up with a shaded area structure? That’s short sighted! That money can go to street lights and sidewalks. Steel Posts, cement, hooks, steel wires, marine canvas and some thought is all this should cost. The waste is ridiculous!

  7. Freddy says:

    City council is subservient to the city manager.

  8. Knightwatch says:

    Looks nice, but I don’t think the council should have approved the funds. This should have had more discussion.

  9. USA Lover says:

    Really? Kids can’t play in the sun now?…..Sheesh.

  10. Sherry says:

    OK. . . I’m thinking that the Palm Coast city council and manager has their “priorities” completely out of whack. How is it that “necessary” sidewalks and street lights are still left wanting. . . even after tragic deaths? BUT. . .there seems to be plenty of money to create artificial shade in the park.

    Safety and security must come FIRST!!!

  11. Mark says:

    Good job Nick. Hold that overpaid Landon’s feet to the fire!

  12. Veteran says:

    But no sidewalks of street lights for Matanzas Woods!

  13. Mark101 says:

    What a waste of money, I call this wacko decision making with NO decision making skills. Just remember people, the next election when their time is up, VOTE THEM OUT.

  14. tulip says:

    This bunch on the council have no experience and seem to be unable to ask Landon if there were other bids, or other less expensive alternatives, and to question and discuss Landon’s proposals. Klufas had the nerve to ask questions but backed away and voted yes. However, Millissa has plenty of experience but she seems to be under Landon’s spell also. They are all a disappointing group.Unfortunately, Landon rules, not the council.

    I do understand the need for some shade for the kids, and I bet the city could’ve gone to Lowes or Home depot, bought some lumber and supplies and built large pergolas with close set boards over the areas for a fraction of the cost, plus pergolas don’t collect dirt, pollen, and other nasty things. Those things fall through to the ground and can be swept up in the normal maintenance

  15. Downtown says:

    How long will they be up before the wannabe thugs burn them down.? Who’s going to put them up and down when bad storms approach? Seems some donated power poles, canvas purchased from Sea Ray, some hardware and installed by city employees would have been much cheaper. Or whats wrong with natural shade provided by a tree?

  16. David S. says:

    Total B.S. another waste of money buy this dysfuncional city…

  17. steve miller says:

    SOOOOO… go out to bid…again!
    don’t worry about stepping on Landon’s “Turf”
    and if the council members are dissatisfied about being kept in the dark then do something about it and stop giving Landon raises!

  18. Anon says:

    I am not agreeing with the decision to go forward wth this project, but for those saying”kids can’t play in the sun,” it’s not about that. It’s about playground equipment getting so hot that it burns their skin.

  19. Lazaruis says:

    Sounds like a lot of money for a little shade !
    Does this include the light bulbs for the lamp posts ?

  20. Eric Shiffler says:

    I’m A Resident Of Palm Coast Near Old Kings Rd.
    Tonight I was Walking In The Grass on Old Kings Rd. to Church
    Wearing A Reflective Vest And I Was Close To Being Hit By A Women Texting And Driving
    Not Watching The Road Driving In The Grass Between Farnum Ln & Frontier Dr.
    We Need Sidewalks BADLY!! This Is NOT The First Time …….

  21. another vet says:

    no street lights or sidewalks but money for this are you F…….ing NUTS?

  22. Thomas says:

    Disgusting waste of money

  23. helendee says:

    Would be nice if you folks re-did the bathrooms at Zambas’ Pool!!! We have a big senior population using that great pool. Can you help us out a little!!!!

  24. cls says:

    They never should have allowed Landon his raise into perpetuity. Now there are no repercussions if something goes wrong or money is wasted.

  25. Anonymous says:

    We need street lights and sidewalks. This is B,S

  26. woodchuck says:


  27. Sw says:

    Dysfunctional priorities

  28. GM2 says:

    Anon – which is more important, that the kids can’t play during the hot part of the day or that they may get run over walking along the road in the dark ? Where are our priorities ?

  29. Ben Dover says:

    what a joke!! its past april 1st isnt it!!

  30. Knightwatch says:

    Just a reminder… DEMOCRATIC candidate for mayor in last year’s election would not have approved this expenditure.

    You want good government … vote Blue next time.

  31. Sherry says:

    Palm Coast residents. . . . CALL your council members. . . do not rely on them to read Flaglerlive. . . although they must certainly SHOULD!!!

  32. woodchuck says:

    We don’t need no stinkin street lights.

  33. RayD says:

    Hurricanes love parasols! Street lights, no. Let them eat parasols.

  34. Dave says:

    Ridiculous, shameful, vote them out, people are dying from dark streets with no sidewalks

  35. Jeanne says:

    I agree with SueWho – Holland Park should have gotten the $475K and some resources to actually finish it. It was part of our house purchase decision that Holland Park was so close to home, and it is UNUSEABLE. Could we see some PROGRESS on Holland Park?

  36. GT says:

    Please! Lets get these people out of office and put some people in that know the value of a dollar and how hard it is to make money these days.

  37. RonnyReagan says:

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan 12 august 1986.

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