The purchasing department received only one bid from a company interested in providing benches at all of Hernando County's mass transit stops.
Ontario-based Creative Outdoor Advertising submitted a proposal just before Wednesday's deadline.
Assistant County Attorney Russ Wetherington said his office will review the proposal in the next 10 days and determine if the company meets the qualifications. If so, he will make a recommendation and bring it before county commissioners for discussion.
If Creative — which has a branch office in Jupiter, Fla. — is not deemed a qualified candidate, then the county will likely re-advertise for proposals.
Wetherington said he was disappointed only one proposal came in but he suspects that the stringent project requirements may have scared some companies off.
Wetherington said the county is looking for a turn-key company to handle the entire project from start-up to finish, including bench and shelter installation, maintenance and advertising.
It would make it easier dealing with one company rather than separate businesses, Wetherington said.
Throughout the process, costs have not been discussed. That will come after a qualified company is found, said County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, who has been leading the charge for bus benches since he took office.
Nicholson said the plan is for the company that installs and maintains the benches/shelters to recoup its initial cost layout and other expenses by receiving a portion of the advertising on the benches. Hernando County has been receiving inquiries from companies seeking to advertise on the benches but the county must first go through the procurement process and get a qualified company on board.
The county must also determine which bus stops would initially get the benches, although the ultimate aim is to install them at all locations.
Given the scope of the project, Nicholson said he didn't expect many bidders.
Nicholson said it is imperative Hernando County provide benches and shelters for bus patrons. Some of them, he said, must stand in the elements up to 75 minutes waiting for the next mass transit bus because that is the run time between vehicles.
Nicholson said that a long wait time is unacceptable and will press for shorter times. He envisions benches with a roof, sides manufactured of plastic or glass and an open front for easy access to the bus.
Especially during the rainy Florida summers, it is imperative that patrons have a roof over their heads, he added.
Nicholson said many bus riders are disabled and have no other means of transportation to get to stores, doctor offices and other places.
"They can't drive," he said. "They have no way to get around."
The benches must be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires an accessible path to the bench, a sidewalk and concrete path.
If for some reason Creative Outdoor Advertising does not meet the project requirements, then the board has no choice but to seek more proposals, Nicholson said.
"We can always try again," he said. "We're not going to give up."
Copyright 2014 - Hernando Today, Brooksville, Fla.