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Policy debate changes course for Buckfield Fire-Rescue station
BUCKFIELD— Though an executive session had been scheduled on the Aug. 20 meeting for the board of selectmen to enter negotiations with Port City Architecture regarding the Fire-Rescue station, the meeting never took place.
After concerned citizen Candy Brooks voiced to the board that any project over $5,000 must go out to bid, according to the town's policy manual, debate ensued between the town and selectmen.
Phase one of the project had gone out to bid and received only two applicants. The project had been awarded to Port City Architecture. After fears of time delays and how long project duration will take, the selectmen at the Aug. 7 meeting voted to enter negotiations, and if those were found unsatisfactory, to put phases two and three out to bid.
"Any single purchase over $5,000 shall be accomplished through an open bid process," Brooks reminded the board.
"My concern is that you are talking about going into executive session with a company that was awarded a bid for just a plan, nothing else....but yet you want to go into negotiations," Brooks said.
She told the board that they have had since July 1 to send the project out to bid. Brooks also told the board there is a lot in the book that she does not agree with, but this one policy she does.
"If you're going to start waiving policies, waive the book, it's of no use," she said.
Town Manager Dana Lee discussed the fact that projects with professional services are different than what the bid policy mandates.
"It should have some exception in there about professional services when there are limited numbers of people who can even apply for this," Lee said.
Lee said that he thinks going out to bid would be a mistake and that in this case, the policy should be waived.
"Then don't put it in the book!" resident Abby Jones shouted at the board.
Brooks reiterated that by meeting with a representative from Port City Architecture, it gives that company an unfair advantage and the only fair way to present the project is to send it out to bid.
The town hopes to break ground for the new fire station by April or May 2014. Lee hopes that in a month the bid will be awarded to the most qualified company, and that it will not become an issue with the time sensitive project.
The board stated that the plans will take approximately three months to make.
Andy Hyland of Port City Architecture told the town that architecture services are rarely if ever bid.
"The reason is, there is no tangible thing that we have yet. If you have a fire truck you can look at this fire truck...buying an architectural design, you don't know what you're buying until it's done. So you might go to somebody who was less...and that design may be $2 million," Hyland explained.
Hyland further explained that the best idea would be to find the architect who is the most qualified.
"They may save you $5,000 or $2,000 right now, and cost this town $50,000 later," Hyland said of going with lowest bidder.
Selectman Martha Catevenis reminded the townspeople that the policy that is in the book is for tangible things, like a truck, not municipal buildings. Catevenis suggested sending out an RFQ, which is a Request For Qualifications, rather than sending the project out to bid.
Hyland agreed with Catevenis stating, "You want to hire the most qualified, that the town entity selects. The fees are negotiated after the selection."
Brooks reminded the board that they reserve the right to accept or reject any bid and that the qualifications can be stated within the bid.
A motion was made by Chairman Warren Wright to go out to bid for phases two and three, and carries into completion of the project. The motion and was not seconded. The motion failed.
Catevenis said, "I don't think it's in the best interest of the town to put it out to bid, a flat fee bid."
She then moved to put an RFQ out to bring the project to completion, and from there go into executive session to determine who the architect will be. The motion was passed unanimously.
Buckfield now aims to come to a decision in one month, and aims to break ground no later than May.
Hyland told the board he also believes that the RFQ is in the best interest of Buckfield.
Lee stated after the meeting that the announcement should be made by Thursday and be open for two and a half weeks. He hopes to have all of the bids back by Sept. 13, though it is a tentative time frame.
He said that he feels this is the last delay the town can face without ramifications from winter months.
Lee stated, "I'm happy to do what the selectmen say, but I'm afraid that this policy may lead to outcomes that are undesired."