The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors’ plan to hire an interim manager for a few months became a longer-term agreement after a presentation last week from Special District Services Inc., a company headed by a team of veteran water management and special district leaders.
The board reconvened Tuesday, June 27, six days after firing District Manager Jim Shallman for failing to submit state-required reports to bond holders on time for three consecutive years.
ITID Attorney Mary Viator had been directed to reach out to potential management companies to hire, and Special District Services (SDS) and Governmental Management Services LLC were the two companies that responded.
SDS was the only company that had representatives at the meeting, and after listening to the firm’s presentation, the ITID board asked SDS to sign a six-month contract with an option for another six months.
SDS serves about 80 special districts in Florida. Its president is Jupiter Mayor Todd Wodraska. His father, former South Florida Water Management District Executive Director John “Woody” Wodraska, will be ITID’s hands-on manager, backed up by the SDS staff of 21.
The company will provide general management and field management, and help deliver a budget for the board to approve and deliver its Truth in Millage (TRIM) rate to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser by the July 28 deadline.
Todd Wodraska said he had gotten word of the changes at ITID and had an advantage, because he had gone through the exercise of developing a contract proposal for ITID to fill in on an interim basis a year and a half before, when Shallman had fallen ill and was not at work for several months.
“My father, Woody Wodraska, was the executive of the South Florida Water Management District for a number of years, and had a similar job out in California. He is at a stage in his career where he is not quite ready to retire,” Todd Wodraska explained.
He added that he had recently brought in former SFWMD Assistant Executive Director Len Lindahl Jr. as his business partner. Lindahl is a professional engineer with more than 21 years’ experience in water resource engineering and project management.
SDS proposed management services for $10,000 a month for as long as the district needs, including general and field management, and finalizing the TRIM rate.
Financial services would be provided on a temporary basis, but the district still would have to find a financial manager to replace Don Rinzel, who was fired at the same time as Shallman.
“We’re very familiar with special districts,” Todd Wodraska said. “We’re very familiar with Indian Trail. Our company has headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens. We do special districts for a living.”
He said his company could provide short-term management until ITID decides what its next step will be.
“If you need some help, we’d be happy to offer it to you,” he said, adding that the advantage of SDS is that its people can show up on short notice.
ITID President Jennifer Hager asked how soon, and whether they would be able to hit the ground running.
Woody Wodraska said he would be able to start the following day, adding that joining ITID would be bringing his career full circle. He started with the SFWMD back when it was called the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District.
“I started working in 1971, and my first project then was working on the C-51 project. [ITID Engineer Jay Foy] and I had the opportunity to work together for many years,” he said, adding that he is extremely familiar with special districts and the services they provide.
Hager asked whether SDS can provide financial services, and Todd Wodraska said his company has a five-member finance division that can fill in until the district finds a full-time financial person.
“I don’t think you need somebody to pay bills or get things going, but what I understand is you need somebody to adopt a budget either tonight or very soon, and that budget is going to need to be transmitted to Palm Beach County for your assessment roll,” he said.
The flat fee for SDS to make final preparations of the budget in order to submit the TRIM rate would be $15,000, he said, adding that the circumstance had come about very quickly, and he still needed to figure out what level of effort and liability his company was taking on in order to submit a TRIM rate by the July 28 deadline.
Supervisor Betty Argue asked if SDS does strategic planning, and Todd Wodraska said that was his strength.
Supervisor Ralph Bair asked Woody Wodraska whether he was used to operating on his own, and Wodraska said he would assemble the staff to learn what areas might need to be filled, as well as get together individually with supervisors. “I wouldn’t envision being in need of a lot of other staff,” he said. “I’ve been through this exercise quite a few times.”
Wodraska said he anticipated relying on Foy, with whom he has worked for 40 years.
Argue said she was very pleased with the proposal. “You guys have done a lot in a short period of time,” she said.
Supervisor Carol Jacobs agreed. “I’m very pleased,” she said. “What I really like is you showed up with a plan. After we spoke, I had a good feeling. I agree with this whole thing here.”
Todd Wodraska said that Indian Trail is an important district.
“We want to see you all succeed, but we also want to put in a proposal worth our effort,” he said. “The proposal I put in front of you is similar to those of our other clients.”
He added that if the contract goes forward, his company would honor it as long as the board wishes, but that he also wants to figure out what to do as far as the next full-time manager.
Argue made a motion to enter into a six-month contract with SDS, with an option for a six-month extension. The motion carried unanimously.