FARMINGDALE — The opening of the sealed bids for a three-year snowplowing contract sparked backlash Wednesday night from a handful of residents who accused the selectmen of manipulating the contract to only allow one contractor to win the bid.

The awarding of the winter road maintenance contract — the town’s most expensive contract — is often contentious. Members of the Board of Selectmen said before the meeting that they expected the process to go more smoothly this year because they held a mandatory pre-bid meeting last week.

McGee Construction bid $192,000 for each of the first three years of the contract, as well as the optional fourth year; and Ellis Construction bid $162,500 for each of the first three years and $170,000 for the optional fourth year.

The other two contractors that attended the mandatory pre-bid meeting, E.C. Barry and Son Construction and Frank Monroe Construction, didn’t bid.

Some residents told the selectmen they think the requirement in the contract that companies must have a dedicated sand-and-salt storage facility clearly separate from those of other towns kept companies such as E.C. Barry and Son Construction, which stores sand and salt for the town of Randolph at its Maine Avenue property, from bidding.

One resident, William Weeks, presented the three selectmen with a list of concerns he had about the contract language, particularly the part requiring the dedicated sand-and-salt storage site. He suggested taking that part out of the contract and putting it back out to bid.

A couple of residents’ complaints about the contract stemmed from what they said was inadequate performance from the contractor who plowed the roads for the previous three years — Ellis Construction — and favoritism exhibited by the town for that construction company.

“You can’t give a contact to a guy that don’t do the job,” resident Russell Hubbard said. “We’re sick and tired of it.”

Doug Ebert, chairman of the board, said the selectmen would review the contracts and the feedback from residents before making any decision.

He had expected the board to choose a contractor at its meeting next Wednesday.

David Sirois, selectman and acting road commissioner, defended the contract and said any of the contractors could have factored the cost of a sand-and-salt storage facility into their bid. He also denied that the board manipulated the contract.

“The contract doesn’t have to be changed,” he said. “Nothing’s wrong with the contract.”

Jo-Ann Choate, a resident who advocated redoing the contract, said she doesn’t think the bid process was open or fair enough for all potential contractors. “All we want is the right things to be done,” she said.

Voters rejected a proposal from the the Board of Selectmen at the June annual Town Meeting to buy property with a state-approved sand-and-salt shed, which would have been used by whoever won the winter road maintenance contract.

The board had proposed buying a 3.67-acre plot with the storage facility for not more than $85,000 from Bruce Ellis, father of Chris Ellis, who owns Ellis Construction.

Rickey McKenna, the former board chairman who was defeated in the June vote, said at the meeting Wednesday night that the town had leased the Maine Avenue property used by E.C. Barry and Son Construction for sand-and-salt storage several years ago, but previous selectmen dropped the lease.

“The town needs its own facility — wherever it is — because when they gave up that lease, there hasn’t been competitive bidding since,” McKenna said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

pkoenig@mainetoday.com