TIFFIN -- Seneca County commissioners chose Bilger's Lawn & Landscape Tuesday to spruce up the courthouse lawn, but the Tiffin city councilman who owns the business said he's too busy to take the job.
The removal of Mr. Bilger's proposal means the commissioners will have to discuss hiring a new landscaper at a future board session.
"I respectfully declined the job because we're pretty busy right now," Brian Bilger said after the meeting. "I know whoever gets it will do a nice job. I want to see it done in a timely manner and, at this point, we are booked pretty solid."
In a 2-1 vote, commissioners opted to hire Bilger's Lawn & Landscape for the project at a cost of $9,311, even though Mr. Bilger's bid was nearly $3,000 more than the proposal submitted by Dan Vera, owner of Mohawk Nursery. Last month, Mr. Bilger had presented a landscaping proposal for the vacant courthouse site at no charge to the county, but Mr. Vera and another landscaper asked for the opportunity to give the county a proposal and a price too.
Board President Ben Nutter, who has repeatedly touted fiscal responsibility, was the first to give the nod to Mr. Bilger's plan even through Mr. Vera's quote, which included a 32 percent discount, was $6,518.
"There's a little bit of difference in money between Bilger's and Mohawk, but Bilger's included several more trees and $600 worth of benches. That more than accounts for the difference in money," Mr. Nutter said during the morning meeting. "I am inclined to go with Bilger's. I like the tree configuration and the beds. I thought [both designs] were going to accomplish what the goal is, and that is to make that area look more attractive."
Commissioner Jeff Wagner agreed with Mr. Nutter. The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Dave Sauber, who said he preferred the Mohawk Nursery design but stressed he is not in favor of spending any taxpayer money on the project.
Contacted after the meeting, Mr. Vera said he was not surprised by the commissioners' decision to hire Bilger's.
"I truly believe that it was never their intention to get ahold of me. They decided to entertain me in front of the public," he said, referring to his protest during the May 1 meeting, when he voiced concern that his firm was not initially contacted about submitting a design. "I didn't expect anything to be a result of that. But people see it. People know what the commissioners are doing."
Mr. Vera said he offered the discount as a form of service to his community. He added that Mohawk Nursery has donated more than $30,000 worth of trees to the Seneca County Park District over the last eight years.
"That's part of what I try to do as community service," he explained. "Obviously, I can't go in there and do [the courthouse project] for nothing, but I wanted to offer a truly competitive bid."
Mr. Wagner said one reason he initially opted for Mr. Bilger's plan was that the landscaping "goes a little further to the east, where Mohawk's stops short of that."
Mr. Vera explained he left the eastern portion of the lot relatively vacant to accommodate construction of a future courthouse.
"I don't think it's prudent spending money on something that we're going to have to end up having to pull out in the future," he stressed. "Nothing that I put there, within reason, should ever have to be touched."