Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Blowfish and I loosely planned to address the tennis court in time but it certainly was not a first year priority. When we did get quotes for the tennis court restoration we were drop jawed by the estimates. We then got quotes for removing the court and were still shocked. So as
The truth is we have added to the history of what we now know is the oldest private tennis court in the county.
There is a lighted basketball court on one end which has hosted many a family game of HORSE. It also has been a fine locale for practice catching or pitching, also a safe place for setting up obstacle courses for inline skaters. When Mermaid reached the age of bigger wheels then the tennis court became a parking lot for friends to gather. It has hosted many an improptu dance and makes an awesome canvas for a large gathering armed with buckets of sidewalk chalk. It even has hosted over the years, a few family tennis lessons. It is true a ball could go askew if it landed on an uneven part of the court but as the games were more about exercise and family than competition we just laughed and replayed the point.
Over the years our plans for this area have changed. Instead of a tennis court restoration we've come to want a grass "sport court" where we could host games of tennis, badminton, volleyball. We have envisioned playing croquet, bocci , horseshoes , miniature golf, kickball and soccer too. For years now, this has been our "someday" plan.
A while back we noticed an ad in the paper which said, " dozer work, reasonable rates". This motivated us to start the bids process again. It is an extensive process starting with determining a way to get big equipment into the yard. The project requires removal of 2 layers of asphalt, 8 inches of gravel , hauling all that off the premises,grading the subsrtrate, bringing in 4-6 truckloads of top soil, grading again before disbursing fertilizer and grass seed. It also requires a talented equipment operator to keep retaining walls in place and to keep the stantions for supporting the nets. We found we could not afford the man with the " reasonable rates".
Blowfish shared this disappointment with a friend,
who knew a fella ,
who might could do us some good.
So someone called someone who called someone who called us and,
offered to come have a "looksee".
Unlike other bidders he did not come in a shiny new pickup with surveying equipment and laser measurers or e-mailed quotes 2 weeks later. Mr. Trace came hot, tired, dusty at the end of a long day with his trailered earth moving equipment left parked on the road with the flashers winking. He walked the court, shuffled his feet across a few rough spots, took a hard look at how the retaining walls were set then said it would take him and his boys a fistful of dollars and two days to do everything. Two days???? All the other bids had been more complex, double the price and of much longer duration. I tried to be discrete in asking if we had been clear about the scope of our project? W had. The difference is this fella owned all his equipment, he was doing another project which required quite a bit of fill and the removal part of our project would serve both clients well, the top soil would be coming from property he owned and the seed from the farmer's co-op he belonged to at about 10% the cost of normal sourcing for lesser seeds. As the triangle between his location, his fill project and our project was "manageable" there were no fees for hauling or dumping. What did need to happen is the schedule of our project needed to be determined by the schedule of the larger, fill needing project. Fine with us! No contract, no deposit, a handshake and a smile were all he required. Amazing.
After he departed Blowfish and I reflected on our good fortune for a bit then I said,
" Did you ask him about license, bonding, or insurance?"
" Do you have any concerns the price billed at the end of the project will be more than the verbal agreement?"
" Are you 100% comfortable with this?"
"Me too but, I would never advise any of my clients to do business this way."
The good news? Mr Trace came as scheduled, did everything in two days as promised, did everything for the handshake price, did everything with a courteous skilled crew. As I watched from the deck I thought what a fine antidote from these tough years of bad business, bad ethics, bad economics, bad politics. I would far sooner trust the word and handshake of this man that any "leader" at any level. It is clear Mr. Trace would never let anything bad define him. We could use a lot more of that.