Local tongues are wagging after Mount Dora residents were made aware through social media last week that earlier this summer the City of Mount Dora had included all of the historic Mount Dora Golf Association's (MDGA) course, a public golf course, in a Request for Offers (RFO) titled "Sealed Offer to Purchase Real Property." Here's what taxpayers need to know:
What is an RFO (Request for Offer)? RFOs are typically used when price is not the only consideration in awarding a contract. For instance when a city or company has more complex needs to solve a particular problem, a winning solution is needed. Respondents to the RFO will provide their bid and solution based on the details provided in the RFO. The title of the City's RFO pertaining to the MDGA property is "Sealed Offer to Purchase Real Property."
How many Mount Dora Golf Association acres are currently included in the RFO? The entire club, 84.23 acres.
Who owns the property? The City of Mount Dora. MDGA has a valid long-term lease on the entire golf club property.
Was MDGA aware of the change (Addendum 1) that added 70.58 acres to the RFO? No, according to MDGA Chairman Colonel Robert Schmitz. The Association learned about Addendum 1 last Thursday after a resident’s Facebook post. Originally, only 13.65 acres of the golf course was in the RFO. The acreage in the original RFO plus the acreage in the Addendum 1 equals the total golf club.
Did Mount Dora City Council Members know in advance that the golf course’s remaining 70.58 acres was being added to the RFO? No. The members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board also did not know. The change to add the 70.58 acres (Addendum 1) was a City administrative action by the City Manager and purchasing department. Mount Dora City Manager Robin Hayes referred to the May 21, 2019 City Council meeting as to when it was discussed with Council Members, however the audio of that meeting clearly shows the City Manager discussed only 12 acres of the golf course for an Invitation To Bid (ITB). The audio also reflects that is the same amount of property last discussed with Schmitz in December, 2018. At no time during the May 21 council meeting was there a discussion about the inclusion of the entire golf course in a RFO of "Sealed Offer to Purchase Real Property."
ABOVE: The historic golf course's plaque dedicated to the WW2 veterans that built it. (click image to enlarge)
Did the City of Mount Dora have prior discussions with MDGA about developing some of the additional 70.58 acres or adding them to the RFO? According Schmitz and Ballinger, the development of the full 13.65 acres in the original RFO was never agreed upon by the Association. There was a handshake agreement that the City could replace the existing old tennis courts with pickleball courts, providing the City paved the parking lot and an adjacent grass area. According to MDGA, there was no discussion about adding the 70.58 acres to the RFO and they only learned about it last week from social media. Mount Dora City Manager Robin Hayes recollected it differently stating the City has “been in contact through this entire process.” (See answer to previous question .)
Does the RFO or Addenda 1,2 or 3 provide a specific caveat to developers that the golf course must be preserved as part of their offer? No. The RFO, "Sealed Offer to Purchase Real Property," has 13 specific caveats and two addenda (changes), but a requirement that bidders must preserve the golf course isn’t included. A third addendum was issued on August 12 the same day Hayes met with Schmitz. The new addendum recognizes MDGA’s lease and now states the property is not for sale, despite the title of the RFO. However, it does not state the golf course must be preserved as part of a bid.
Do incomplete or changing parameters in an RFO affect the process? Yes. To create a professional response to this particular type of RFO, a company would spend $30,000 to $50,000 on the conservative side for consulting fees, renderings, preliminary site plans, presentation graphics and other expenses, according to Gerry Guenther, Managing Principal of G3 Development which is not bidding on this RFO. RFOs (or RFPs) that don’t provide all of the caveats for a project, can invalidate the bids thereby wasting resources of the companies that respond. At that point, a reputable company may opt not to invest more money in a flawed bidding process. Long term, this directly affects taxpayers because the City may not get the most advantageous bids for their project(s) in the future.
Is there any other City property included in the RFO? Yes, Addendum 1 also added the adjacent 44.45-acre spray fields.
(Click image to enlarge)
What safeguards the golf course’s preservation? After the City RFO deadline on September 20, the City will review and then accept or decline offers. It would be MDGA’s decision whether to allow its lease to be purchased or negotiated.
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