Council balks at spillway repair bids, advances trash ordinanceOctober 03,2012
By David Delcore
BARRE – City councilors this week balked at bids to repair the flood-damaged spillway at the Dix Reservoir in Orange, but pressed ahead with plans to revise an ordinance that could translate into higher trash collection bills for some landlords and businesses.
Acting at the request of Mayor Thomas Lauzon, councilors agreed to wait a week before considering City Manager Steve Mackenzie’s recommendation that they accept J.P. Sicard Inc.’s low bid of $2,139,220 to repair the spillway that was severely undermined in widespread flash-flooding in May of 2011.
Lauzon said he was underwhelmed by reference checks that the city’s consulting engineer, the Dufresne Group, compiled on the Barton firm in the wake of a competitive bidding process that was conducted earlier this summer.
“I just would not consider any of these recommendations glowing,” Lauzon said, noting that five of the six were laced with caveats that he believed the council should take time to consider to think about.
Lauzon said that was particularly true given the difference of less than $25,000 between the bid submitted by J.P. Sicard and the one submitted by S.D. Ireland Inc. of Williston. Though the other three bids the city received ranged from nearly $2.3 million to more than $2.5 million, Lauzon said S.D. Ireland’s bid was within 1 percent, but references weren’t checked for the purposes of comparison.
That was intentional, according to Mackenzie, who repeatedly warned councilors that passing over the low-bid could expose the city to time-consuming legal action.
“The fundamental test of awarding a bid on a federally funded project is … ‘is the contractor responsive and is he responsible,’” Mackenzie said, suggesting the Dufresne Group concluded J.P. Sicard met both tests and he concurred with that assessment.
Mackenzie offered that opinion after reviewing what he described as a thorough and candid reference check.
“I’m comfortable that the consultant’s recommendation to award the bid is sound and reasonable,” he said. “There’s nothing in here that jumps out as overwhelmingly negative.”
However, Lauzon said there was nothing that was overwhelmingly positive either and raised concerns about J.P. Sicard’s “depth of experience.” Most of the projects the company provided for reference purposes had little, if anything in common with the spillway repair, according to Lauzon who said noted it has only worked on four FEMA projects and its only experience with dam repair involved a $94,000 project in Groton.
“This is a $2.1 million contract,” he said. “That’s a far cry from 94,000.”
Mackenzie said he had no problem with the council deferring action for a week and agreed to invite representatives from J.P. Sicard to attend next week’s council meeting. However, he warned that requesting references from S.D. Ireland would be a mistake.
“I would recommend against … considering anything other than awarding it to the low bidder and I’m comfortable we have the resources to … oversee … the progress of the work,” he said.
The council voted, 5-2, to table awarding the bid and Councilor Paul Poirier urged Mackenzie re-evaluate the bids before making a recommendation.
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