HARWICH — Weston and Sampson Engineering, Inc. will serve as the town's wastewater management and outreach coordinator, selectmen decided Monday night.
Selectmen have been considering such a position for several months due to the need for someone to communicate with and answer questions raised by citizens and work closely with town staff and the design engineers on the multi-million dollar wastewater project.
Two responses were received to a request for proposals for the position: one from Weston and Sampson and the other from Bad Aqua, a local group including former selectman and wastewater support committee member Peter Hughes and former finance committee member and wastewater support committee member Noreen Donahue.
Hughes and Donahue both resigned from the wastewater support committee on Feb, 20. The letters of resignation both stated they were stepping down to “To avoid any potential ethics concerns related to prospective activities.”
The town established a review committee to examine and rate the proposals made up of Town Administrator Christopher Clark, Assistant Town Administrator Robert Lawton, Wastewater/Water Superintendent Dan Pelletier, DPW Director Lincoln Hooper and Facilities Maintenance Director Sean Libby. Lawton told selectmen Weston and Sampson was rated “highly advantageous” and Bad Aqua “advantageous.” The ratings were partially based on the differences in the responses to the requirements that the proposer have “three projects or activities over the past three years related to the scope of work in the RFP.”
Lawton said once the rating was done the cost proposals were opened. Weston and Sampson's figure was $94,400, while Bad Aqua's was $64,000, both for work in FY19-FY20. The town had capped the cost of the service at $75,000. As allowed under the state procurement law they entered into negotiations with the highly advantageous applicant and Weston and Sampson came down to $75,000, removing some duties that the firm said would be done as part of the construction contract.
“My concern is Weston and Sampson, while a well recognized and highly respected firm, part of this is we wanted more communication with the community,” Selectman Larry Ballantine said. The selectman said he thought Bad Aqua would be in a better position to communicate with the community.
Clark pointed out former Brewster Town Administrator Charlie Sumner would be serving as Weston and Sampson's coordinator. He praised Sumner for his hands-on, day-to-day contact and his knowledge of the field. He said Weston and Sampson will provide a strong support element, citing the firm's local knowledge and its work with Chatham's wastewater facilities.
“I can't say enough about Charlie Sumner,” Selectman Michael MacAskill said. But he expressed concern about the scope of work being revised from the RFP. Given that the town received only two RFPs, MacAskill suggested they put the RFP out to bid again.
Clark said both firms committed to being flexible and responsible to the community when it came to efficient use of hours. Clark said Weston and Sampson would not be re-designing the system, but would be doing peer review. If there is an issue, there will be the opportunity to make corrections, he said.
“I hear everybody's concern, but we're just about at the point of creating a circular firing squad,” Howell said of issues that keep causing delays in progress. Expressing confidence in Weston and Sampson, he moved approval of a contract with the firm capped at $75,000, which the full board OK'd.