ENCINITAS — City Council renewed its contract with a tree company despite objections from several residents.
By a 4-1 vote May 26, with Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed, the council awarded a two-year contract to West Coast Arborists, Inc.
The company has maintained the city’s trees since 2000. The city expects to spend $140,000 on tree maintenance in the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1.
The no-bid process was circumvented by “piggybacking” on another city’s contract.
“We found that West Coast’s prices are affordable and reasonable,” said Mark Hosford, city street division superintendent.
Under current policy, the city can avoid an open bidding process on many areas — usually through capital expenditures — if it “piggy-backs” onto another city’s contract, as long as that original contract was awarded through an open bid process.
According to Hosford, the city piggybacked onto a contract the company recently won with the city of Rosemead in Los Angeles County.
“The September 2000 contract between the city and West Coast Arborists said that a five-year extension was available,” Tony Krantz told the council. The Leucadia resident noted that the original contract required the company to show superior service if the extension was exercised.
He questioned why the city was not extending the contract if in fact the company was providing quality service. “Ten years later they should be able to prove they are the best company for the job through an open bid process,” Krantz said.
Kevin Cummins asked the council to explore why the staff report did not fully explain what the costs would be if a request for proposal were sent out. “I’d like to know whether or not we know for sure this is the best company,” he said.
Several residents expressed unhappiness with the company’s tree-trimming practices. Several speakers said that the inconsistent service left some trees severely pruned while others were neglected.
“Mr. Hosford may be happy with West Coast Arborists’ work, but I am not,” Tim Clancy told the council.
The Cardiff resident said the company should scale back its extensive pruning methods that lead to an unhealthy urban forest. He also said the company should inspect trees more frequently for disease and overall health.
In 2007, the company mistakenly removed a tree in Leucadia’s Roadside Park and had to replace it with several other trees. Certified arborist and Cardiff resident Mark Wisniewski said many of the replacement trees later died and the two remaining ones are held in place with cables.
He also told the council that the piggy-back contract was inferior because it used tree-trimming standards from more than a decade ago rather than the most current procedures. “Isn’t Encinitas good enough for the 2004 standards?” he asked.
However, company President Patrick Mahoney said his company is well-known for its expertise in municipal tree trimming. “We use the most current, up-to-date standards with certified arborists,” he said. The company has contracts with 195 California cities, including the city of San Diego.
Encinitas has about 10,000 trees according to Mahoney’s account.