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Concern Surrounds Ellington School Project

The Permanent Building Committee has made a recommendation for an architect, but the recommendation, and the required funding, has caused some reservations throughout town.

When you have a big building project, there are many things that can raise concern. For those dealing with the and , the current cause of concern is the selection of an architect.

At the July 24 meeting of the Permanent Building Committee, the committee unanimously passed a motion to negotiate with Moser Pilon Nelson for architectural design services, with the intent to make a decision at the Aug. 14 meeting.

However, the bid from Moser Pilon Nelson came in at approximately $600,000 more than the lowest bidder, Silver/Petrucelli, and that has many concerned.

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“The concern that people have is that there appears no vetting of the low bidder,” said town Finance Officer Nicholas DiCorletto. “In most of these cases, you would start investigating the low bidder, do your due diligence, determine whether or not they qualify – they meet all the requirements – then you move on to the next guy if they did not meet the standards. What’s discouraging is that there appears to be no consideration to even discuss or meet with the low guy, to vet him out. In all my years, I never remember starting off with the high bidder and going backwards.”

Another concern with the decision was brought up by Board of Finance Chairman Robert Clements, who noted that one of the references used by Moser Pilon Nelson came from Peter Welti, the chairman of the Permanent Building Committee.

“How do you propose a competitive bid to a committee when you are using as a reference, the chairman of that committee?,” he asked. “It’s gotten to a point where I don’t like the perception of insider dealing. I don’t want be perceived as accusing anyone of anything, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”

In addition, going with the high bidder could possibly put state fund reimbursements in jeopardy.

Board of Finance member Michael Varney mentioned that in past projects he has worked on, a justification statement – explaining why the board or committee did what it did – was done.

“We need to have a justification,” he said. “(It’s for the) best interest of the town. It very well could be in the best interest of the town that they picked Moser Pilon, we just don’t know.”

It was also discussed how budgets are always asked to be cut or zeroed, how other projects are asked to make sacrifices, and how some townspeople are on fixed incomes or are struggling – leading the board to need to be fiscally responsible.

Another concern that was discussed was on why the Permanent Building Committee made the decision during an executive – closed – session, and not in open session.

“How do they justify that?,” Varney asked. “What right did they have to even do that? The very least they can do is write a justification statement on why they picked who they did.”

This firm has done several projects in town and Clements said that that is part of his problem with the decision. He said that there have been multiple incidents with every project the firm has worked on, and would like to see another architect have chance on a project.

“Some people were more comfortable with Moser because they’ve done everything, that’s why I’m uncomfortable with them,” he said.

As for some of the issues brought up with Silver/Petrucelli – and the other architects – Clements would suggest taking some time and talking with people the firm has done work for. The firm has done several projects throughout the state and recently signed a contract to do work in Enfield.

The decision was made to check with the town attorney to see what went on with the Permanent Building Committee meeting and where things can go from here. 

SM August 08, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Thank you to the town officials who are looking out for us taxpayers and the use of our money which we sacrifice and work hard for every day! It would be nice to be able to have full trust in our town officials and the folks who are responsible for using our tax money WISELY! I agree that something stinks here!
Bob Clements August 09, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I urge any and all concerned citizens in Ellington to show up at the Aug. 14, 2012 Permanent building committee meeting to question why the low bidder on the pending school projects was not given more consideration. Silver- Petrocelli has done school projects in Fairfield, Seymour, Milford, Bridgeport, Berlin, Waterbury, Trumbull just to mention a few. They are not late-comers in this business. They received the 2012 Project Team Award of Merit from the Connecticut Building Congress and the 2011 Excellence in Construction Award from the Connecticut chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Bob Clements, Chairman, Bd of Finance
Bob Dwyer August 11, 2012 at 09:37 PM
This action is in direct conflict with the CT General Statutes regarding publicly funded, publicly bid projects. There is a required vetting process that must include interviewing a minimum of four firms. The town attorney can certainly shed light on this or the town certainly could forfeit state reimbursement. Bob Dwyer, Taxpayer
carl slicer August 15, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Dear Patch Writers: Since there are 3 of you on this one subject. Perhaps you should devote more time to the subject & less time to words. I hope you dont get paid by the word! Please dont waste our time with "Hype", smoke & mirrors. This article was very misleading. "Concern Surrounds Ellington School Project" . This was a false alarm. NO WHERE in the original article dated August 8, 2012, does it say there was originally six (6) Architects that bid on the project. This article makes it sound like there was only two (2) bidders. Very misleading. Carl Slicer.
Ellington Taxpayer August 15, 2012 at 09:18 PM
This article never states that there were only two bidders on this project. In paragraph three, the writer states: "However, the bid from Moser Pilon Nelson came in at approximately $600,000 more than the lowest bidder, Silver/Petrucelli, and that has many concerned." If the article were inferring that there were only two bidders, it would have stated that it came in approx. $600K lower than the OTHER bidder. Something stinks with this whole process and I commend Mr. Clements on his questioning the excess cost to the taxpayers as well as the manner in which the decision was made (behind closed doors) to select one artichect over another. I also commend the Patch for reporting on this issue.

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