Homestead leaders complain about landscaping contractor

Homestead officials accused their contracted landscaping company of doing a “sloppy” job and suggested it was time to consider a new vendor.

Mayor Steven Bateman said there were issues with ValleyCrest Landscape Development all over the city, such as the weeds being higher than the plants and dead plants not being replaced fast enough. ValleyCrest has a contract to maintain landscaping on city property.

“Every week when I drive through Homestead on my inspection tours, I report dead or run-over plants … There is no reason why we can’t look like a Doral or Pinecrest,” Bateman said in an email Friday. 

Bateman asked city staff to look into the possibility of taking away ValleyCrest’s contract or cutting it in half so that two separate vendors could split up the work. 

“We changed landscaping companies to get more care and quicker response and it just hasn’t happened,” Bateman said. “These are large contracts at roughly $700,000, making this a very important issue.” 

This is not the first time landscaping has triggered a discussion on whether Homestead needs to revamp the way it awards contracts using taxpayer’s money. 

In 2010, Bateman requested that a company named South Dade Landscaping work on a project on U.S. 1. City staff told him that this would not be possible because the project would have to go out to bid. There were 20 bids recorded — South Dade Landscaping’s bid was the highest. But the company still got the job. 

In another instance, the council awarded ValleyCrest a contract, even though the company was not the lowest bidder and was improperly given a 10 percent local vendor preference. Homestead’s ordinances allow officials to give preference to vendors who have offices in the city to promote local businesses. 

The ValleyCrest landscaping empire reported $880 million revenue in 2012, has about 3,100 employees in Florida. Headquarters is in Calabasas, Calif.

ValleyCrest’s Regional Manager Charles Gonzalez has overseen landscaping in hotels like Atlantis in the Bahamas, the Setai, The Lowes and the Shore Club in South Beach. 

“To my knowledge there have been no issues of performance with our contract,” Gonzalez said. 

City spokeswoman Begoñe Cazalis said in an email that there are no complaints on file to date. 

But Councilman Jimmie Williams III said the impoverished southwest part of the city, which “has been neglected for years” needs more attention, and complained about lack of attention to Southwest Fourth Street and Krome Avenue. 

“It’s an eyesore,” Williams said. “. It’s just one of those communities that have been left out. … We don’t get those things that others take for granted in other neighborhoods. It’s an ongoing problem.” 

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