BOS June 20

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.

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2 Responses to BOS June 20

  1. Jim Noble says:

    The Friends of Town Hall are (obviously) “insiders”. One of the big challenges of running any Board or even committee is to stop the “insider” phenomenon before it starts. The reason it’s so hard is that at least half, if not more, of the volunteers who donate their time and talents do so, in part, to either BE an insider or to BEFRIEND the insiders.

  2. Tom Bickford says:

    An excerpt from the Town’s procurement showing that an purchase of over $10,000 must be put out for competitive bids with three exceptions that don’t seem to apply, a fact that seems to have been forgotten.

    Procurement Policy

    The purpose of this Procurement Policy is to obtain goods and services for the Town of Wolfeboro at the lowest possible price consistent with the quality needed, ensuring that the taxpayers are getting the “best overall value” for their dollars, to exercise financial control over purchases, to clearly define authority for the purchasing function, to assure the quality of purchases, to allow fair and equal opportunity among qualified suppliers and to provide for increased public confidence in the procedures followed in public purchasing.


    A competitive procurement process must be followed if the procurement of goods or services involves expenditures of more that $ 10,000.00.
    The Finance Director is responsible for the release of all bids and Requests for Proposals (RFPs). The Town Manager shall ensure that the requesting department provide all relevant information for the timely preparation and release of bids be forwarded to the Finance Director.
    Bids and RFPs (Request for Proposal) must include:
    Listing of required specifications and services
    List of vendors for bid to be released to.
    Proposed public notice and newspaper advertisement.
    Dates for release of bid, return of bid and public bid opening.
    The bid shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder that meets the specifications and submits proper bond and insurance requirements if applicable. The Town Manager may reject a bid due to a finding of poor past contract performance or financial condition.
    RFPs and invitations to bid, as well as the bid or contract award notices shall be sent from the Finance Director to the Bidders, Department Heads and the Town Manager.
    The competitive procurement process may be waived by the Town Manager or Board of Selectmen in the following events:
    In case of emergency or justifiable special circumstances that require timely procurement of goods or services.
    When there is only one source of supplies or services.
    When the service or products are received through the State or other joint bid processes.

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