Wolfeboro wastewater treatment contract extended two more years
Wolfeboro electric rates once again lowest in the area
July 29, 2010
WOLFEBORO — At their July 21 meeting, Wolfeboro selectmen approved renewing the contract for operating the town's wastewater treatment plant without going out to bid.
The decision was based on the recommendation of Public Works Director Dave Ford and an outside consultant's evaluation of current contract operator, Woodard & Curran.
Woodard & Curran, based in Portland, Maine, is an employee-owned engineering and contract plant operator that has operated the Wolfeboro wastewater treatment plant since 1997 and is now coming to the end of its third contract. The previous contracts had been put out to bid.
David Dedian, Vice President and Senior Area Manager for Woodard & Curran, made a presentation to selectmen on upgrading and management of the plant over nearly 14 years. The present plant was built in 1970 as a temporary facility to treat sewage until the Winnipesaukee River Basin project, which envisioned having a major treatment plant in Franklin, was completed. The Wolfeboro plant was designed to have a useful life of 20 years. The larger project was never completed and the town was left with a facility not designed to do the complete treatment process, which includes removing nutrients, or handle the current level of 450,000 gallons a day of sewage. Since it took over in 1997 Woodard & Curran has engineered and installed a series of upgrades to the plant that have increased efficiency 50 percent and delayed the need for replacing the plant. The firm was also involved in developing the Rapid Infiltration Basin system of effluent disposal that led to the lifting of the sewer moratorium last year.
Ford said he was recommending a two-year extension of the contract, with an option for a third year. He said his goal is to have the town operate the plant itself, and the extensions would allow for a reasonable transition, with the optional third contract year as a cushion in case the transition process takes longer than anticipated. His recommendation is based on a study of treatment plant operations by consultants Fuss & O'Neill, who reviewed the performance of Woodard & Curran and also evaluated three options for running the plant once the current contract expired: 1) renewing the contract with Woodard & Curran; 2) run the plant with existing town Water and Sewer Department staff; or 3) seek proposals from other qualified contract operators.
Fuss & O'Neill identified "a few areas where Woodard & Curran's performance could be improved," but it concluded that Woodard & Curran "has done a good job for the Town and they have been able to effectively manage the system." Running the plant with town employees would require hiring three additional fulltime employees and, most significantly, hiring or developing an employee who would hold a Grade III New Hampshire wastewater treatment operator's license.
The consultant identified three potential bidders if the town wanted to put the plant operation out to bid. The report cautioned, however, that "A danger with this alternative is that firms may take a very aggressive approach to winning the bid, which would result in the winning bidder looking for ways to cut costs or cut corners due to an inappropriately low bid." While risk could be mitigated by providing detailed specifications in the bid, Fuss & O'Neill recommended "that the Town of Wolfeboro negotiate with Woodard & Curran to renew the current contract" for a period from one to three years and plan for a transition to town management of the facility.
Ford endorsed accepting the consultant's recommendations, adding that changing contractors at this stage, when the town should be preparing to take over, would be too risky. "There is just too much going on right now," he said, and putting the contract out to bid would cost at least $30,000. Ford said he has always been able to work with Woodard & Curran as a partner and their engineering services would still be needed after a transition.
After a brief discussion, during which Selectman Sarah Silk praised Woodard & Curran for the quality of their work and people, selectmen voted 5-0 for the two-year contract with option for a one-year extension.
Ford presented selectmen with three more building evaluations covering Dockside Restaurant, the Libby Museum and the Solid Waste and Recycling Facility prepared by Bergeron Technical Services of North Conway. Only one evaluation remains, that of the Highway Garage. Ford said he expects to have costed proposals for correcting the problems identified within four weeks. This will then allow a discussion of how to address the major issues identified.
Selectman Dave Senecal said he was concerned about the electrical code violations cited and felt that they should be taken care of right away, along with a plumbing venting issue identified in the Dockside Restaurant.
Selectman Chair Linda Murray said she felt the town should be responsible for all maintenance on buildings it leases to others, such as Dockside and the Railroad Station and not leave it to the tenants, to make sure it gets done promptly and to code. The town could charge higher rent to pay for the regular maintenance she said.
Town Manager Dave Owen announced that there would be an electric rate review within the next month. As part of the process of developing a rate, a survey was done of residential utility rates, making a comparison with New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and Public Service of New Hampshire, both of whom have had rate increases since Wolfeboro last set its rates. The comparison showed that while the town's purchased cost per kilowatt hour for energy was higher, it made up for that with lower delivery charges and taxes. The difference for a 500-kilowatt-hour-per-month customer was $14.96 per month lower than the Electric Cooperative and $7.39 less than PSNH (the cost to towns customers was $83.48 vs. $98.44 for the Electric Cooperative and $90.87 for PSNH).
The discussion of jaywalking at the last meeting shifted to a discussion of crosswalks on July 21. Murray said she felt "it is more important to educate than to punish" and handed out a draft document on crosswalk safety, which included a map of crosswalks on Main Street. She pointed out that most downtown crosswalks come out from between parked cars. Selectman Marge Webster agreed, saying that the worst crosswalk was between Spencer Hughes and Black's and proposing that all crosswalks have the vertical yellow signs citing state law about stopping at crosswalks.
Murray asked fellow board members to look at Police Chief Stu Chase's Jan. 30, 2007 evaluation of crosswalks. Only the crosswalk at Carpenter School meets national standards, and the improvements made there were the result of a complaint.
Selectmen gave a temporary event permit to the Friends of Abenaki to host a fundraising visit by the Walker Brothers Circus at The Nick on Aug. 13 and 14. The Friends will split the proceeds with WARA, the operator of The Nick. People are urged to buy tickets in advance from Town Hall, Black's, Avery Insurance or Bradley's Hardware because most of the fundraising comes from advance sales.
The board approved accepting a grant of $5,000 from NH the Beautiful toward purchasing a used backhoe for the Solid Waste Facility, to be used in compacting dumpster loads.
Also accepted was a grant for $167,600 from the NH Department of Transportation to construct sidewalks as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program.
Selectmen also appointed three library trustee alternates (Peter Cole, Deborah Hauser and James O'Rourke) as recommended by the library board. Ken Marschner and Murray were appointed to the Joint Board for Intermunicipal Milfoil Initiative, with Owen as an alternate.
Ford reported that the Route 28 Corridor Study results would be presented on Thursday evening, Sept. 23, at Crescent Lake School. The study analyzes Route 28 from the Alton town line to Route 109A.
Owen reported that the assessors have nearly completed their update of property values. New values will be mailed out at the beginning of August, with appointments to be made in mid-August.
Owen said he sent a reminder out to all town employees about vehicle use, including the seat belt requirement and restrictions on idling. He also reported that he has met with Ford and Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple over the proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A marked-up copy of the settlement has been returned to DOJ and a final document is expected soon.
Michelle Fabricant of Downtown Market Grille came before the board during Public Comment to complain about a Cease & Desist Order from Code Enforcement Officer Audrey Cline. She cited what she characterized as a "pattern of discrimination" on the part of Cline since November 2006 in citing the Grille for sign violations, despite the fact that Fabricant has presented Cline with similar unenforced sign violations from 24 to 25 other businesses more than once since then. The board took no action on the complaint.