Expert: Sarasota paying 2-3 times too much for architectural services at Bobby Jones Golf Complex

Bobby Jones improvements

SARASOTA (WWSB) - When Sarasota City Commissioners first chose Richard Mandell to develop a Master Plan for the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Complex, it was through a competitive bid process.

Mandell eventually suggested $16 million in improvements to the complex. Now City Commissioners are ready to move forward with Mandell and have him make his Master Plan a reality, but that comes with a more than million dollar architectural services fee to have Mandell head-up the project.

Taxpayer and golf course owner Neal Neilinger, who recently rehabbed “The Palms at Forest Lakes,” says City Commissioners are poised to spend two to three times too much for that fee, based on his knowledge of the golf industry.

“The city has an obligation to taxpayers to get the best quality of services at the best price. I’m not disputing if he’s the right or wrong person, but it’s the wrong price. And it’s the wrong price because they haven’t gone out for a competitive bid [for architectural services],” Neilinger said.

But City Spokesman Jason Bartolone came to the city’s defense, saying the original Request For Proposal issued in 2017 for a Master Plan for the Bobby Jones Golf Complex included a section on architectural services, allowing each firm submitting bids to list what their fee would be.

Bartolone tells ABC7 that the proposal allows the city to “continue services with whichever firm was selected [to create the Master Plan]," adding that “continuing services with the same firm that created the Master Plan would allow for continuity and consistency in the project.”

He says that the Request For Proposal went through a competitive bid process and that “all the bidders included information about architectural services and knew that the city might exercise that option.”

Bartolone disputes Neilinger’s assessment that the city is overpaying for architectural services, saying, “Mr. Mandell’s costs for architectural services were relatively reasonable and competitive.”

“The item on next week’s agenda is an amendment to the original agreement with Richard Mandell Golf Architectures, Inc., for architecture services in the amount of $1,053,400," he wrote.

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