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Sarasota News Leader October 4, 2013 Page 12 a contractor that is not up to the job can create problems. Carter pointed to the county's mowing fiascos as an example of what can go wrong. In early 2012, the county fired a private firm that had undertaken the mowing of the county's roadsides for less than half the bid of other companies but was unable to complete the work. The contract ultimately led to the county's falling far behind in mowing last summer, prompting a multitude of complaints about overgrown medians and rights of way. The situation grew so bad that commissioners finally agreed in February to hire 24 new employees to ensure the county could keep up with the mowing. Robinson told The Sarasota News Leader she Commissioner Nora Patterson listens to a workshop discussion. Photo by Rachel Hackney was not worried about a bus system merger evolving into the equivalent of another mow- all of the other vendors the county uses for ing fiasco. all sorts of other services that are completely Vendors who would bid to run the bus sys- successful." tems would likely have significant experience operating transit agencies that formerly were public entities, she pointed out. Beyond that, the two counties would vet any firms that bid on the contract — including checking on their past projects to make sure the best contractor was selected, Robinson added. For Barbetta, privatization is not an option unless three things happen. First, the cost analysis must show significant savings will result. Then a vendor must prove it can operate the systems with the existing level of service or improved performance. "There has to be a demonstrated experience "And the third [requirement] is absorbing our level there," Robinson said. "We will look at employees," Barbetta told the News Leader. "Anyone who comes in and takes over our bus what they've done in other areas." transit has to know they have existing SCAT Robinson noted that Sarasota County has a and MCAT bus drivers." multitude of other companies under contract that handle their work with neither contro- Barbetta added, "Some bus drivers are worversy nor problems. "You can single out ried they will lose their job. That was never mowing," Robinson said, "but take a look at the intent. This is an opportunity."

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