October 23, 2013WEST STEWARTSTOWN — In an action that angered county commissioner Rick Samson, the board of county commissioners awarded the valuation appraisal contract on the Granite Reliable Power (GRP) wind farm in Dixville and Millsfield on a 2-to-1 vote to the low bid of $25,000 submitted by George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC, (GES) at Thursday evening's special meeting at the Coös County Nursing Home.
The only other bidder, an international firm headquartered in Colts Neck, N.J. — MR Valuation Consulting, LLC — bid $58,000.
Commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin, who also serves as Berlin's Mayor, had explained at the monthly commissioners meeting on Oct. 9 in Berlin that he was ready to award the bid to Sansoucy with whom both the county and the City has previously done business, both because of his satisfaction with services rendered and the vast cost difference, totaling $33,000.
At that earlier meeting, however, commission chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson insisted that time be taken to evaluate the relative merits of the two competing bids, especially since the information is not be needed until April 1, 2014, when the state requires it. Neither commissioner seconded Grenier's motion, however.
It was another story at Thursday evening's meeting. Grenier once again made the motion to award the contract to low bidder Sansoucy, and this time Brady seconded it.
Samson, however, explained that he had undertaken some independent research on MRV, which, he pointed out, has worked on 11 wind farm valuations while Sansoucy has not ever done one. He distributed a letter from an assessor in the town of Milford who said that he "continued to be impressed with the diligence and thoroughness with which they completed the data collection and analysis phases of the project (in 2012) as well as their professionalism while interacting with town and utility representatives."
Samson also distributed answers supplied by MRV's managing partner to a series of questions that he had posed by e-mail to clarify items in the bid proposal. "Over the years," Mark Rodriguez stated, "I would estimate that 50 percent of our work (at MRV) has been completed for taxpayers and 50 percent for taxing jurisdictions. We have also been instrumental in negotiating and resolving complex property tax matters."
Choosing a vendor on price alone can be a mistake, Samson explained. He compared a meal at McDonald's to one at a 99 Restaurant, repeating the adage, "You get what you pay for."
Grenier cited some utility appraisals in the North Country on which Sansoucy, a.k.a. "Skip," has done an outstanding job.
Samson then asked Grenier to step down from the discussion and upcoming vote because of his "close association" with the appraiser.
Grenier responded that he would not recuse himself and that his relationship with Sansoucy only consists of the utility expert's work for the City of Berlin. "It's a business relationship," the mayor explained. He noted that the contract would be paid for out of the unexpended balances in Millsfield and Dixville, both Unincorporated Places. Millsfield's taxpayers will need to have enough money on hand to fight the tax case appeal now heading to the state Supreme Court, Grenier pointed out.
County administrator Jennifer Fish said that she had read the two bid proposals and only the price difference had jumped out at her. She said, however, that she had no expertise in this field.
Brady called for the vote, and both he and Grenier voted "yes" to the motion to award the low bid of $25,000 to Sansoucy, and Samson voted "no."
Samson then angrily said that he wanted the paper copies of his research returned to him and snatched those that Brady had in his hand away from him. Brady chastised Samson for his "childish" behavior.
Papers and reports, once distributed in public, are public documents under the state Right to Know law, Grenier pointed out.
In other action, the commissioners voted to award a $25 bonus to each staff member at the West Stewartstown nursing home to acknowledge and congratulate them all for its recent state-federal inspection in which no quality deficiencies were found. The commissioners congratulated all involved for their outstanding work.
In other earlier action, the board voted unanimously to buy a new higher-quality washing machine for the Berlin nursing home to replace a three-plus-year-old one that needs $4,000 of repairs. The $8,500 price quoted by Daniels Equipment of Auburn includes installation and removal of the old equipment. The new machine has sufficient settings to do small delicate items, including residents' favorite knitted comforters, as well as far heavier loads. This choice was highly recommended by the facility's maintenance staff.
Permission was also given to the Berlin nursing home administrator to hire two 40-hours-a-week agency medical practical nurses (MPNs) for up to $30,000 to fill in some of the 136 hours that are open.
The delegation can decide at its meeting on Friday, Oct. 25, whether or not contract with Checkbox Systems of Maine to bring high-capacity, multi-connection WiFi capabilities for residents and their visitors to both the county's nursing homes at an installation cost of $5,776 in West Stewartstown and $6,025 in Berlin. A monthly service fee would also be charged.
Chairman Brady also clarified the procedure under which the board's agenda is set after Samson complained that he has been given the run-around on making a timely appointment for a second alternate for the Coös County Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places.