Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Paul Koenig firstname.lastname@example.org
FARMINGDALE — Selectmen ended the wrangling about the plowing contract Wednesday night by choosing the lowest bidder, angering a handful of residents in attendance.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously chose Ellis Construction, the company with the contract previously, with a bid of $487,500 over the next three years for the winter maintenance contract.
Around a dozen residents, however, complained to the board about the fairness of the contract, as they had at two previous meetings, and raised concerns about the quality of Ellis Construction’s past work.
Doug Ebert, chairman of the board, said the town will revise its complaint process for residents to ensure concerns about work of contractors are better recorded and resolved.
“That’s why we’re starting this process, and that’s why we were trying to move forward,” he said.
Russell Hubbard, a resident who has criticized Ellis Construction in the past, asked the selectmen whether they could change contractors after the first year in the case of poor performance.
“Are you guys authorized to do anything about that? ’Cause we’ll flood you with complaints,” he said.
“Put that on the record,” Hubbard added. “I’m going to write it every time I don’t get sand on the hill. Every time.”
The town can terminate the contract if the contractor fails to meet the requirements of the contract.
Ebert said one of the reasons for the improved comment form is to give the town a record of the performances of contractors. He said selectmen, the road commissioner and the contractor also would sign the complaint and record how it had been remedied.
Jeff Ellis, a former constable for the town and the brother of Chris Ellis, of Ellis Construction, said documentation has been lacking in the past, but there were complaints about all past contractors who had the plowing contract.
“We’re going to have documentation in the future, no doubt about it,” he said. “And I can tell you right now, in the 18 years that I was constable in the town of Farmingdale, I don’t care what contractor we’ve had, I have got calls. It always happens the first snowstorm, the first ice storm.”
One of the main objections raised by residents over the last three weeks was the the new requirement in the contract that companies must have dedicated sand-and-salt storage clearly separate from those of other towns. They said that kept some contractors who don’t have dedicated storage from bidding.
Defenders of the contract have pointed out that the requiring of a sand-and-salt shed wouldn’t be a problem if voters had approved the purchase of property with storage at the Town Meeting in June.
Ellis Construction bid $162,500 for each of the first three years and $170,000 for the optional fourth year. McGee Construction, of West Gardiner, bid $192,000 for each of the first three years of the contract, as well as the optional fourth year.
The other companies that attended the mandatory pre-bid meeting, E.C. Barry and Son Construction, of Farmingdale, and Frank Monroe Construction, of Whitefield, didn’t bid.
Resident William Weeks told the selectmen he was disappointed that they didn’t listen to the concerns and opinions of members of the public when they made their decision.
Rudy Martin, a resident who also has raised objections about Ellis Construction in the past, encouraged people at the meeting to elect other selectmen instead of arguing with them.
Rickey McKenna, a former board chairman, was defeated by newcomer James Grant in June. Ebert will be up for re-election next year.
“One thing that the people can do here if they’re not happy about all of this is vote these guys out,” Martin said. “So make sure next spring we’re right down there to vote them out.”
“Let’s clean house and start over,” Martin added. “We’ve already got one new one; we can work on the other ones. That’s all I got to say.”
“Thanks, Rudy,” Ebert said after Martin finished.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663