Just got back from the BOS meeting. I went there to listen to the update on Brewster Hall improvements. Rob Houseman went over the activity to date, but it was a closed discussion and the spreadsheet was not made available to the public. Later, Tom Beeler got a copy and shared it with me.
The asbestos abatement came in at $21,000 vs the original estimate of $15,000. The reason given was that the price of the scrap metal from the boiler went down. I don’t buy that. The contract was not bid because it was bid awhile back when CCI was developing a larger project. Seems like it would have been easy to rebid that, especially when the “low” bidder sharpens his pencil and increases the price 40%.
Apparently the basement dehumidification project is stalled because they want to have an engineer design the system and nobody seems to be interested. I don’t know if any of this is due to the comments that I’ve made about the inappropriateness of the proposed $20,000 system, but if so, the engineer that I had consulted expressed an interest in sizing a system.
The big issue, of course, is the windows. The $49,000 quote for 24 windows that was originally budgeted at $21,000. During the citizen comment period, I got up and asked about it. I asked for details about how the original $21,000 was arrived at. I asked if any other vendors were contacted. I asked why we were seeking NH Division of Historical Resources approval when the state isn’t giving us any money and they have nothing to do with the National Historic Registry.
It’s altogether possible, that Pella is giving us a great deal on this. How would we know? And even if it’s a great deal on Pella windows, these appear to be the most expensive windows that Pella makes, and maybe a less prestigious brand without a discount would suit us.
Mr. Owen was noticeably flustered, and claimed that if we didn’t go with this no-bid deal, we would have to spend a lot of money on engineering to develop specifications to bid it. I was not quick-witted enough to tell him that the taxpayers already ponied up half a million dollars to develop specifications and they blew it developing plans that the voters have no interest in, and will continue to make payments on for the next 17 years or so.
I personally don’t see the difference between getting prices from several selected companies or a single selected company. At least that would be better than sole-source and would go a long way toward validating the final purchase.
This episode underscores the problems with public projects. We probably have a good deal for what it is, but we have nothing to compare it to. On the other hand, it will be expensive and time-consuming to develop specifications and put it out to bid. Moreover, the responses to a public bidding process will probably be mediocre and overpriced. There is no perfect solution.
Before Mr. Houseman gave his presentation, Linda Murray announced that he had presented this information to the Friends of the Town Hall the previous evening. How is it that this group gets favored access to Mr. Houseman? Even at the Selecmen’s meeting, the discussion was cryptic because we were not provided with the spreadsheet. Typically, I have to ask for these things and they charge me 25¢ per page. Maybe if I didn’t feel like I was on the outside looking in, I would be a little less cynical about the process.