You will recall that I recently received a call from a local asbestos abatement contractor who told me that, contrary to what Mr. Owen has been telling everyone, the job was NEVER put out to bid. Mr. Owen has maintained that the job was previously “bid”, so he didn’t see the need to “rebid” it.
Well….. not quite. I made a few “Right to Know” requests to get the details of the alleged previous bid. Turns out that the town asked Turner Engineers of Concord for an estimate as part of the $4 million proposal in 2009 (actually 2007, see below*). They in turn asked three companies for prices. In our town, there is a definition of what a “bid” is. There is a policy that says when it is required, how it is to be conducted, and under what special circumstances the Town Manager and Selectmen can waive the requirement.
The lowest price was $14,900 from Enviro-Vantage and so when the town appropriated money for abatement in March 2012, the town simply asked Enviro-Vantage for a new price. Big surprise, now they want $21,000.
So the local contractor who called me was absolutely correct. The town never bid the job and he never got a chance to compete for his own tax dollars. For the Town Manager to represent a three year old cost estimate as the equivalent of public bidding is fraudulent. When asked about it he says stuff like:
“I don’t know if he mentioned to you that we have already awarded two projects to him this year, as well as other projects in previous years, so he has been doing quite nicely from the Town’s procurement practices.”
Seems to me that’s an excellent reason to ask him to bid on this project.
“As the Town official responsible for letting contracts and administering the procurement process, as well as being the author if the Town’s Procurement Policy, I did not (and do not) see any need to rebid the same scope of work, except now the work will be done at night and on weekends so as to not interfere with the Town workforce.”
I don’t know if it’s laziness, incompetence, or corruption but the whole thing stinks.
In the pipe we have a sole-source proposal for windows that is more than 100% over budget, and have been waiting for a price from an alarm company for several months with no mention of putting the job estimated at $20,000 out to bid.
When confronted about these activities, the Selectmen and Town Manager say that they haven’t yet signed any contracts so they are not in violation of the procurement policy. What do you think?
* Correction 7/4/2012: I just noticed a fine print date on the estimate sheet. Turns out it was 2007 – 5 years ago! Probably part of the original McGinley Kalsow plan. It had been represented as 2009 at the Selectmen’s meeting.
First let me commend the blog author for the tenacity and civic interest shown in tracking this problem. I know from experience it takes time and a concern for how our town is run to keep at it. What weak excuses you get from the Town Manager. The first seeks to excuse him from doing his job because he feels the guy is getting enough Town business. Not the call of the Town Manager, he is there to follow policy period, not editorialize and justify. And the second response about not having let the contracts yet so no harm, no foul? That is kind of like finding John Dillinger outside a bank armed with a gun. Yeah, no bank robbery yet but what are the chances it would have happened if no one noticed his presence, eh?
The real issue here for Murrayville, as it is with all levels of government, local, state and federal, is a lack of zealousness by elected and hired government officials to DO THE RIGHT THING. There is always some agenda they are following that makes those pesky policies a nuisance to pay attention to. Some of it is probably laziness, and some incompetence. On other levels corruption too enters the picture but I don’t see that here. Rather those elected and hired, in the absence of a truth seeking fourth estate (no one will ever accuse Beeler of being inquisitive and seeking to find the story behind the story) and a general malaise on the part of the public, do what is convenient with an attitude they are above the law. We have a bid policy to supposedly give the taxpayers maximum return on their tax dollars. Obviously this policy was put in place because someone pointed out we didn’t have one and that most government bodies have one. Doesn’t appear we put it into place to really follow it otherwise we would not get these weak as water excuses as to why it is not in the forefront every time a project that requires appropriation of taxpayer funds is proposed over the amount in the policy, not just the multi-million dollar projects.
But as I have said many times before, this climate will stand until the tax bills get so onerous that people rise up. And unfortunately that is a ways off and when you get to that point, the baby has already been tossed out with the bath water.