Experience mowing for city? need advice

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Smitty58, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. Smitty58

    Smitty58 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 531

    I'm debating on bidding for a local towns mowing contract. There are approx 50 properties up for bid and I got the list of requirements with last yrs winning bids. We have not mowed for any gov. jobs just mainly residential and a couple of commercial props. To win the contract would put us where we want to be financially but it appears that the per prop prices are very low. I'm looking for anyone who has experience with this for some advice. How is it doing contracts with city governments? Is it worth the hassle? or should we just stick with residentials and commercial props. We are a 2 man operation with all the legal stuff (ins etc) to go after this ,but I'm concerned about getting into something I'll regret.
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    The best I can tell you, government contracts are an income best compared to social security as it relates to a retirement income.
    While the checks are guaranteed (you will get paid and they will clear, 100% of the time), the pay tends to be a bit marginal.

    And the location and purpose of the property has a big impact on what you'll need to do as well...
    For example:
    An abandoned / unused school will take far less maintenance than their main courthouse where all the important people are at work every day.

    Just a bit to help guide, I know it doesn't really answer your question.
  3. Smitty58

    Smitty58 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 531

    Thanks topsites, these are all water treatment props ,no office buildings. The bids last yr for the giggest group of props (27 props) was $69k with the 4th place guy at $210k. That big of a difference in bids is a red flag to me. One of the other groups of properties has 13 that avg $25 each. Now 12 of them are very small ,less than 7000 sq ft each ,but 1 is 5 acres and they are spread out over a 10-12 mile strip so ther is a lot of drive time. The winning bidder last yr did these for $300 per cut. Seems very low to me ,but it's money and basically the low bidder gets the contract.
  4. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    great thats its money, but are you going be working just to break even? if so then whats the point....remeber once youget the contract, then next yearl everyone else will know what your were paid and then underbid if they want the contract the next year.....you gotta hope to make some money on extra's
  5. cantoo

    cantoo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,910

    We did Town work for a couple of years. Needed $2 mil in liability insurance with them as third party. They always "suggested" that each years bid should be lower than last years. We left some the same and raised a couple. These were tendered jobs and they quit putting the jobs up for tender after a couple of years. We suggested that we were saving them money on not having to do the tender process so that money could go to us as increases. they thought otherwise, they lowered our price so we suggested it was time to part ways. They bought a new JD midmount, new trailer and truck to haul it. They hire students to cut the grass with a full time Town guy to drive the truck. He usually stands there and watches while the student cuts. They even had the nerve to call us to cut when the truck wasn't available a couple of times. We suggested they retender the work if they can't handle it. I wish there was a way of figuring out how much more money they are paying for the cutting now.
    Like alot of guys have said, just because you are working it doesn't mean you are making money.
  6. Lugnut

    Lugnut LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 551

    They hire students to cut the grass with a full time Town guy to drive the truck. He usually stands there and watches while the student cuts.

    The guy who stands around is probably one of the town politician's brother-in-laws or something. :laugh:
  7. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,083

    My company does a large amount of contract work for the local municipality and housing authority.
    Regarding the school, the first year I had half of the campuses. Now I have all of them as the maintenance director became fed up with the other LCO's not being reliable. I bid the campuses individually, added in a percentage to allow for unforseen problems and the first year still came out okay. Once I received all of the campuses, I provided a 'volume' discount of less than 20% of my added percentage. Has worked out even better.
    The best thing is I get all of the landscape maintenance/installs, irrigation maintenance/installs plus large area fertilization and playground weed control.
    I say do the work for cost plus a percentage, be reliable and more importantly at least one per quarter meet with the maintenance director and suggest other services. The good thing about government work is when money that has been budgeted and not spent is usually available for these add on jobs.
  8. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    We do some parks (8) for the local township. I don't get paid alot, but it's worth it. It's a contract fee, and they usually dry out in the summer time, so I get paid without doing any work.

    However, the township is merging with the city soon, and they too have a JD front mount, then hire out retired guys from a local service @$10 hour or so.

    I'll be losing the contract once that happens.
  9. cantoo

    cantoo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,910

    That's kind of what happened to us. We have three township that joined together. They "bill" each other for services provided. They decided that they should hire more students so they created a bunch of jobs and hired the kids. All we can tell from it is that our taxes went up and we got fewer services.
  10. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    I agree. I'm fighting for the other parks when they join, after all, I already have (2) 11' mowers, plus (2) 60" ZTRs, so I'd be set up.

    However, one strike I have against me, is that we had the bid for these parks years ago, but it was a horrible hiring year, and I could get anyone to work, plus it was raining every 2 days HARD, and I ended up losing the bid after a month because of lack of service performed.

    I'm not sure if the board members are still the same, and if they remember that or not, guess I'll just have to get to the board to find out.

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