Public Works Director David Ferguson told council members during their regular meeting that the work performed by Sycamore Landscaping Corp. of Livermore — which took the three-year contract to maintain 212 acres of city parks and streets in June 2013 — was sub-par.
“The sum of the work performed has not been acceptable or conformed to all requirements outlined in the agreement,” Ferguson said.
According to Ferguson, the shape of city streetscapes had been declining steadily since Sycamore stopped working April 23. The Press was not able to reach Ferguson about specifically how the landscaping company had failed.
On May 28, the city issued a notice of contract termination.
Crews from the Public Works Department have tried to maintain some areas of town since Sycamore stopped working, but Tracy residents took notice of the brown or dead landscaping.
Councilman Charles Manne and Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel both said they had received calls from members of the public about the state of Tracy’s greenery.
“We have received a number of calls, as you have as well, expressing concerns about these conditions,” interim City Manager Maria Hurtado said during the council meeting. “We have had a drastically visible decline in the quality of the city’s landscape areas across town and in some of our neighborhoods.”
The item was part of the consent calendar — items which are usually not discussed before approval — but Maciel pulled the item from the calendar so the city could discuss it openly.
“One of the main
reasons I pulled this item is that we have an opportunity to perhaps reassure members of the public that this is being dealt with,” Maciel said.
The maintenance of parks and other green areas in the city is paid for by landscape maintenance districts. Districts are established by new housing or commercial developments. Property owners pay a levy each year to fund landscape maintenance and must vote to approve any change in the amount they pay. The amount the community votes to spend effectively becomes the budget for service in that area, which can make service levels vary between different districts.
There are 41 landscape maintenance districts within Tracy, each with its own levy amount based upon economic development units. A single-family home is one unit. Undeveloped private property is five units per acre, as is developed non-residential property.
According to a city list, the costs per unit range from zero to $410.663. Most parts of central Tracy do not pay LMD fees, because they were in the city before the establishment of the first district in 1985.
“Is there any concern that there is a lack of funds in LMDs to get them up to where they should be and then continue to maintain them?” Maciel asked, referring to how the landscaping repairs would be paid for.
Administrative Services Director Jenny Haruyama responded that it was a concern.
“Some zones are underfunded,” she said. “They do have reserve amounts, but it’s going to require a vote of the community if they want to, in fact, levy a higher maximum amount.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the cancellation of the contract with Sycamore Landscaping Corp. and authorized Ferguson to hire a temporary service starting in July while the city seeks a permanent solution. Ferguson said that city workers would try to keep up with maintenance until a temporary company is found. The public works director told council members he expected to have a contract with a new permanent vendor for the council vote upon in September.
The Press tried to contact Sycamore Landscaping Corp., but no one at the company was answering phones.
Tracy residents can see a map of the landscape maintenance districts throughout the city at the city website.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at email@example.com or 830-4231.