Thursday March 21, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- Owing to public feedback on the maintenance of the town’s cemeteries this past year, on Monday the Select Board awarded a mowing bid to a local company which was not the lowest bidder.

The winning bid was submitted by Sycamore Landscaping of Shaftsbury. The first year of the contract is for $14,000 with options to renew for two years at $28,000. The competing bid was from Green Mountain Boys Landscaping, which bid the first year at $12,000 and the next two for $24,000.

Last year the bid was awarded to Nathan Sweet, of Bennington, for $9,500. His was the lowest bid. Sycamore had been mowing Shaftsbury’s cemeteries for a number of years and was recommended this year by the Cemetery Commission.

"There had been concerns with the quality of work that was performed," said Board Chairman Craig Bruder in an interview. "It wasn’t to the same standard we had been accustomed to in prior years." Other board members said people were expressing concern over the state of the cemeteries this past year.

The bid award was followed by a discussion among board members about how long to make the contracts for, and when to favor a local bidder. The board agreed that awarding companies a renewal option for two or three years beyond the first was needed to give the companies stability.


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Board member Billy Obenauer said if the board intends to favor local bidders then it should say so in the request for proposal (RFP). He feared the town might not get bids in the coming years if companies felt there were factors being considered not stated in the RFP.

Board member Carl Korman said locality was not being considered here, and the RFP did state other factors would be taken into account besides lowest bid, such as reputation and ability to do the work. He and other board members said they had no reason to think Green Mountain Boys was not a good company, but Sycamore has a track record with the town.

There were at least two other bids submitted but they did not meet the RFP’s requirements.

In other business, the board voted three to two to appoint David Mance to the Development Review Board. Obenauer and Bruder voted against the appointment because the practice as of late has been for the Select Board to interview potential DRB appointees after the DRB does its own interviews and recommends them. Obenauer said Mance was on the DRB when there was a high degree of tension between it and the public regarding a proposed composting facility and might affect the public’s confidence in the board if questions were not asked.

DRB Chairwoman Megan Donckers said Mance is one of the members the DRB needs to function well, as he and one other hold much of its experience between them.

The board also voted to begin its regular meetings at 6:30 p.m. and to make efforts to keep them under three hours. Meetings have been exceeding that somewhat regularly and the board also said it would endeavor to discuss topics no longer than 15 minutes unless they warranted longer discussion. The board must also vote to exceed the three-hour cap.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr