Acknowledging Error, Selectmen Vote to Reconsider Lang’s Pond Road Contract

“We erred,” said selectman Carolyn Sundquist in a meeting today with Integrity Earthworks. “We don’t know all the RSAs [state laws].”

Steve Pacsay, president of Integrity Earthworks of Wolfeboro, had requested today’s meeting after the selectmen rewarded the Lang’s Pong Road contract to LA Drew in an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning. The selectmen rejected Integrity Earthworks’ bid because it did not include a security bond. However, the bid instructions stated a bond was not required.

Sundquist stated today that the selectmen didn’t know that New Hampshire state law required bonds on projects that are more than $35,000, until they saw an article about it in a municipal magazine last week.

Integrity Earthworks asked the selectmen to reject all the bids and solicit new bids. “I don’t want to sound like a sore loser,” said Steve Pacsay. “This not the first contract that we won’t get or will get.” His concern was that the bid process had not been fair. Integrity Earthworks, he said, would have included a bond if the bid instructions had required one.

Selectman Lloyd Wood made a motion to reconsider the decision on the contract. Selectman Sundquist seconded the motion, and then Sundquist and Wood both voted yea. Selectman Bill Marcussen was not present to vote. The selectmen will therefore reconsider the decision at their 9AM meeting this coming Monday.

Marcussen left before Integrity Earthworks came to meet with the selectmen. The full board of selectmen were present for a 10:30 meeting this morning with Meredith Savings Bank, which is taking over the Melvin Village branch location from Peoples’ United bank. The selectmen are looking to move town accounts from Peoples’ to Meredith Savings. When the meeting with Meredith Savings finished at about 11:20, Marcussen left.

Marcussen had been the most vocal opponent of awarding the contract to Integrity Earthworks. It’s unclear why he did not stay for the scheduled 11:30 meeting with Integrity Earthworks.

Selectmen Award Lang’s Pond Road Contract to LA Drew

After a bungled bid process, the selectmen awarded the Lang’s Pond Road contract to LA Drew this morning in an emergency meeting. At their meeting yesterday the selectmen awarded the contract to LA Drew even though Integrity Earthworks of Wolfeboro was the lowest bid. The selectmen stated the reason for awarding the contract to LA Drew’s higher bid was that Integrity Earthworks had not filled out the bid package correctly by not including a bond. However, an Integrity Earthworks representative who was present at the meeting pointed out that the bid instructions had clearly stated that the bond was not required, prompting the selectmen to reconsider their initial awarding of the contract, since the decision had been made based on incorrect information.

The selectmen hired an outside firm, Norway Plains, to review the bids to ensure the process was fair. At last night’s meeting the Integrity Earthworks representative stated he had called Jack Parsons, representing the town, as well as Norway Plains, to make sure that his company’s bid was complete and he was told that it was. One of the reasons the selectmen had expressed for going into recess last night was that they wanted to talk to Jack Parsons, but Parsons was not present at this morning’s reconvened meeting.

At this morning’s emergency meeting chairman of the selectmen Carolyn Sundquist said that she would be willing to award the contract to Integrity Earthworks if they put up a bond. Selectman Bill Marcussen stated his concern that Integrity Earthworks is primarily a high-end residential contractor and lacks the experience of constructing roads. He was concerned that Integrity Earthworks would not be able to complete the project before winter. Selectman Lloyd Wood stated his belief that it would be illegal under state law for the town to award the contract to Integrity Earthworks so long as they issued a bond because it would amount to changing the bid requirements at the last minute in order to favor one of the bidders. Wood stated that while he didn’t want to use the word “misleading,” the bid instructions had not been clear. Sundquist stated that instructions were “unfortunate.”

The Integrity Earthworks representative (the same one from last night) was at this morning’s meeting and offered that while 75% of his company’s portfolio is indeed high-end residential, they have a number of current and pending contracts for large-scale non-residential work including the Rochester City Hall Annex and the Army National Guard. These contracts, he pointed out, exceed the dollar value of the Lang’s Pong Road contract.

Selectman Marcussen made a motion to award the contract to LA Drew. It was seconded by Lloyd Wood. Chairman Sundquist called a vote. Marcussen and Wood voted yea. Sundquist voted nay.

After the vote, the Integrity Earthworks representative thanked the selectmen for the process and shook hands with all three of them. There was no representative from LA Drew at either last night or this morning’s meeting.

LA Drew’s winning bid was $140,772 and Integrity Earthworks’ lower bid was $112,906. The Integrity Earthworks bid would have been higher if it included a bond, but would still have offered a considerable savings to the taxpayer.

Confusion Over Awarding of Contract for Lang’s Pond Road

After having received four bids on July 11th, the selectmen voted today to award the contract for the reconstruction of Lang’s Pond Road to LA Drew, Inc., even though Integrity Earthworks, LLC., had submitted the lower bid. Chairman Sundquist stated that the reason was that Integrity had not included a bond in their bid, as required. Representatives of Integrity Earthworks were at the meeting and stated that the bid instructions had indicated that the bond was not required. They said they would have included a 3% bond otherwise, but had followed the bid instructions. They also stated that they had called Jack Parsons, who is the town’s code officer and was overseeing the bid process, to ask if Integrity’s bid was complete and that he told them that it was.

LA Drew’s bid was $140,772 while Integrity Earthworks had bid $112,906. However, with a bond the bid would have been higher, though still lower than La Drew’s.

The selectmen then tried to check whether the bond had been optional, but didn’t have the document in front of them and decided to table the discussion. The Integrity Earthworks representatives then left. One of them returned a short while later with the bid instructions and the relevant part highlighted. The selectmen thanked him then returned to their other business.

At the end of the regular meeting they reopened discussion of the contract. Selectman Lloyd Wood read from an excerpt from a municipal magazine he had excerpted, which indicated that the state requires bonds on contract bids of more than $35,000. However, the bid instructions for Lang’s Pond Road did clearly state that the bond was “not required.”

The selectmen were unsure what to do, and not wanting to make a decision without more information, decided to postpone another vote until tomorrow morning at 9AM. They would like Jack Parsons to be present.

The selectmen said that they were not adjourning their meeting, but instead went into recess. They are not giving a 24-hour notice of tomorrow morning’s meeting, they said, because it is not a new meeting. Selectmen Wood stated he believed that was legal and chairman Sundquist said she hoped it was.

According to the New Hampshire attorney general’s Memorandum on New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law, RSA Chapter 91-A:

Additional notice may not be necessary for continuation of public meetings. See Town of Nottingham v. Harvey, 120 N.H. 889, 894–95 (1980) (recess of a public zoning meeting until a later date without notice of the second date did not violate Right-to-Know law). When practical, posting notice of meetings that are to be reconvened supports the spirit and objectives of the Right-to- Know law.

The selectmen did post a notice to the town’s official web site this evening:

On Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 9:00 a.m., the Board of Selectmen will reconvene to make a final vendor decision for the Lang Pond Road project. The meeting will be held at the Town Office.

*THis post was updated because I misidentified Integrity Earthworks, LLC. I called them Integrity Contractors, Inc., at first. My apologies.

Shagoury: Possible Overdose Death on Sandy Island

Police Chief Andrew Shagoury reported to the selectmen that a recent death on Sandy Island could be the result of a drug overdose and that the police department is waiting on a toxicology report. If it is an overdose death, the toxicology report will indicate if the drugs were illicit. Chief Shagoury said that the department received an emergency call that turned into an unattended death. The police department will issue a press release when more information is available.

Thompson Reports New Ambulance in Service

Fire Chief Adam Thompson reported to the board of selectmen that the new ambulance, which is leased after being approved at Town Meeting this year, has entered service. Thompson confirmed that the new ambulance will go out on every single call even if Stewart’s Ambulance Service is on scene. Tuftonboro has a contract with Stewart’s to provide emergency coverage.

The new ambulance will be on scene as backup but will not transport patients unless a Stewart’s ambulance is unable to transport. The fire department is filling out paperwork in order to be able to charge Medicare for transportation costs (for patients with Medicare).

Selectmen Discuss Police Building, Library

met with Police Chief Andrew Shagoury this morning to hear his thoughts about a new police building. Chief Shagoury said he would prefer to wait and put more money into the police department facility capital reserve fund, rather than move for a warrant article at the next Town Meeting for the construction of a new facility. He noted that if the town has the money in hand to spend on a building project, then Town Meeting can authorize the expenditure with a 50% vote. However, if a loan is required, then a 2/3 vote will be required. A 2014 study concluded that a new, standalone police building would cost just over $1,000,000. The police department facility capital reserve fund had approximately $332,350.39 in it as of December 2015, and the 2016 Town Meeting authorized the addition of $50,000 to the fund, bringing the balance to approximately $382,350.39. (It is an interest bearing account, so the exact balance as of today will be slightly higher.)

Chief Shagoury said he did not think that expanding the current police offices at the town office would be a good idea. There wouldn’t be significant cost savings in his opinion and it would be difficult to have construction going on at the town offices. He would prefer a new building on a new location.

Selectman Carolyn Sundquist said that the new library building warrant would likely not come back for a vote at Town Meeting until 2018, so the police department facility capital reserve would have two more years of putting money away.

Selectman Lloyd Wood said that in his mind and many people’s the police building is linked to the library. Sundquist said she didn’t want to bring the warrant up without enough money in the capital reserve fund because the warrant would fail. My notes don’t tell me if she meant the warrant for the library or for the police building, but she stated twice during the meeting that she didn’t think the library would come back for a vote until 2018.

Wood said he very strongly would like the new police building to be located near the library and the elementary school. He stated that when he was police chief in Auburn, New Hampshire, he worked two cases that involved the deaths of little girls. He feels that if the police building is close to the school and library it will send a message to “all the creeps, perverts, and pedophiles.” He said that was more his personal opinion than a statement as a selectman.

Discussion followed of whether there needed to be detailed building plans at this point. Selectman Bill Marcussen stated he didn’t think it made sense to have detailed plans before putting money away.

The general consensus was to put more money into the police department facility capital reserve fund over the next two years.

The selectmen also announced they will be attending the Ragged Island Association’s annual meeting tomorrow, July 9. They are meeting at the dock at 9AM.

Sundquist also alerted Marcussen and Wood that later this month they will need to discuss a memo sent to them by Clay Gallagher, the transfer station director, about cost-of-living increases in the budget for social security contributions to employees.

The selectmen had met for about thirty minutes in a non-public meeting prior to talking with Chief Shagoury. According to the agenda for the non-public portion of the meeting they were discussing “a legal issue.” After one point during the non-public meeting, Administrative Assistant Karen Koch left the room so that the selectmen could discuss an employee evaluation. Koch said she wasn’t sure if they were evaluating her or not. She also said she wasn’t sure if the selectmen wanted her to divulge the nature of the “legal issue” that they had been discussing. After about five minutes the selectmen called Koch back into the room for another five or so minutes before they opened the public portion of the meeting.

Let (Does?) Freedom Reign

I love America. Period. End. No perfection here, not in my little town, or in this state (“where is New Hampshire, again??”). And certainly there is no perfection in ‘politics’ – in any level of our ‘democratic’ and ‘representative’ governments.

“Perfection” was not written into the Bill of Rights, nor the Constitution.

FREEDOM was, and should continue to be, the basic tenet of our American lives.

Our Revolution waged over 8 years, unofficially started here in NH with the first “revolutionary” military activity between Loyalists and Patriots, with the capture of Fort William in December 1774. There were 6 battles in NH, 12 in Mass., and 137 in South Carolina alone.

In all, there were 1,546 military engagements over the course of those 8 long years.

Total American deaths: 6,824 (90% were from the Continental Army), 10,000 deaths from disease and another 8,500 died in British prisons.

The ratio of American deaths to the free white male demographic, was 1 in 20. This ratio would equal 3 million today.

24,000 British boys and men died “for” “our” Revolution.

There were 80,000 colonial inhabitants living mainly along the New England coast, when the Revolution broke out. Of the 2.5 million people having made this their new home, 20% were black slaves.

In 1775, the slave population of Virginia was 40%, NY 14%, Connecticut 8% and Rhode Island %.

Clearly, “we” had yet to graciously broaden the scope of “freedom,” that bloody perspective, (or lack of) destined to stain American soils for decades, scores and a few scary centuries to come.

Sadly, our country has become diseased and it would appear, to this citizen, anyway, that freedom, no longer reigns. Not in Tuftonboro, not in New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”), or in America.

My country , ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty, of Thee I sing.
Land where my Fathers’ died, Land of the Pilgrims Pride,
From ev’ry mountain side, let Freedom ring.

My native country, Thee
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet Freedom’s song;
Let mortal’s tongue awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break
The sound prolong.

Samuel Francis Smith, written 1831.

Everyone Should Be Able to Ask Questions at Meetings

Here comes another Fourth of July. Independence Day they call it. A year ago in a letter that never got published, I called out the Tuftonboro selectmen for having their heads buried in the sand with their no public comment gag rule, also known as the McWhirter Muzzle rule, at selectmen meetings.

Well, I was wrong. Duffy and Wood may have had their heads buried in the sand, but Selectmen Chair Carolyn Sundquist obviously has hers stuck somewhere else.

At a budget committee meeting on May 24, Sundquist, who is the selectmen’s representative to that group, said that the public doesn’t have a right to speak, and “Could I just ask, what would come from the public that would make us change our minds on something?” Talk about a condescending attitude!

At the June 20 selectmen’s meeting, she refused to share a memo with the cemetery trustees because there “would be no public benefit from the trustees seeing it.” How would she know? She doesn’t allow or listen to public input. If one can ask a question, all should be able to ask a question. All in or all out. All men are created equal. To say one person can speak because she’s the reporter doesn’t cut it.

No special exceptions. It’s called democracy. It’s why we celebrate our freedoms. It’s government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Sundquist has become Tuftonboro’s version of Hillary. The best thing that could happen to Tuftonboro would be if Carolyn Sundquist became Carolyn Soonquits.

Watching Phineas Graves rolling in his grave.

This post appeared as a letter to the editor of the Granite State News.