ELLSWORTH — At a meeting of the City Council on Monday evening, councilors voted to award a bid for the city’s paving services to Winterport-based Wellman Paving Inc., a change from past years, when the city has gone with Lane Construction Corp.
Wellman’s bid came in the lowest out of the four, at $310,314, which was $305 less than Lane Construction Corp. Several councilors spoke in favor of awarding the contract to Lane Construction Corp., despite the slightly higher bid, because of previous work it had done for the city.
“We have over the past developed a very strong relationship with Lane Construction Corp., and they have stepped up to the plate more than once to do things beyond the contract,” Councilor Steve Beathem said. “They’ve done everything they could do to do the best job they could for us. For $305, I’m not willing to go away from that.”
But Councilor Bob Crosthwaite pushed back, arguing that having a prior relationship with the city was not part of the bidding process.
“Sometimes I wonder why we have a bid process when we come to council and start discussing whether we’re going to accept bids or not,” said Crosthwaite, adding that the recommendations for Wellman Paving Inc. were “very favorable.”
“Whether it’s $305 or $5, they are the low bidder. There are people sitting at this table here who over the years that I’ve been here have fought rigorously to maintain this low bid process, and I hate to see them changing their minds.”
If a prior relationship with the city is going to be part of the bidding process, said Crosthwaite, “That should be part of what we’re advertising.”
Councilors also approved amendments to guidelines for a program that would expand the area of the city that is eligible for improvements to private housing stock.
The money can be used by residents who meet certain income guidelines to make improvements to their homes such as adding insulation or replacing an old chimney or windows.
Downeast Community Partners, which was hired by the city to administer the funds, has run out of eligible projects in the area but still has $146,000 to spend. The money must be spent before June 30, 2019.
“If we stay with the same project area we stand a chance of missing opportunities to serve people who are in need, as well as not being able to spend the already allocated and still remaining funds,” City Planner Michele Gagnon wrote in a memo to councilors.
In other city business, councilors voted to approve bids for several budgeted items, including:
- A new Darling’s Chevy Silverado truck for Public Works Director Lisa Sekulich, at a cost of $22,069 after trade-in.
- Two new police cruisers from Quirk Ford at a total cost of $49,470 (after trade-in). Police Chief Glenn Moshier told councilors the department cut its maintenance costs in half last year, from around $21,000 in 2016 to $11,000 in 2017, “largely due to the newness of the fleet.”
- A contract with Woodard and Curran for updates to the city’s hydraulic modeling system, which “would tell us where we have flow — high flow, low flow, pressure, what areas of town we have more available water and what areas of town don’t have available water,” said Water Department Superintendent Reggie Winslow. Councilors approved the request for up to $30,000. A grant of $15,000 has already been awarded to the city for the project.
- A bid from Penta Construction for $760,500 to install cathodic protection in several of the city’s water tanks, which will help save the tanks from corrosion, Winslow said. “The water will then attack the rod that’s put in place instead of the tank itself.” Funding for the project comes from the Maine Drinking Water Program and is part of the city’s budgeted funds.
- Upgrades to the city’s servers for $151,709, as the city’s “existing infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life,” Information Technology Systems Administrator Jason Ingalls wrote in a memo to councilors.
Councilors also voted to approve the request of Heart of Ellsworth to hold a sidewalk sale as part of the Autumn Gold Festival.
After a spell in executive session, councilors also voted unanimously to extend City Manager David Cole’s contract, after having “agreed in principle” to do so at a meeting in July.
Cole was hired in 2015. His three-year contract expired Aug. 17.
Cole was paid $101,882 in fiscal year 2017, up from $95,197 in fiscal year 2016.
There are no details available yet on the terms of Cole’s upcoming contract.