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.