FARMINGDALE — The chairman of the Board of Selectmen told around a half dozen residents who complained about bills from a contractor at a recent meeting that some parts of the winter road maintenance contract will be clarified in future years.
The plowing contract issued every three years by the board is a common lightning rod for some residents who have complained about various issues with the current and previous contractors.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, Gary Choate, a contractor in Farmingdale, presented copies of around a half dozen bills to the board totaling close to $5,000 that the town has paid to the plowing contractor, Ellis Construction, of Farmingdale, for work related to snow and ice removal and sanding.
Choate said the work, which included clearing catch basins and scraping and sanding refrozen ice, should have been done by the contractor as part of the regular duties of the winter road maintenance contract.
The selectmen, however, said the bills were justified because the road commissioner or the state police requested the work. The board chairman, Doug Ebert, said although it’s correct for the contractor to bill for emergency situations he’s called in to by the road commissioner, what is defined as an emergency should be clarified when the town writes a new contract in two years.
“When we redo this, we will get the gray areas out. There are gray areas. I’m not disagreeing with you,” Ebert told Choate at the meeting.
Ebert said in a phone interview Friday that it should be clear in the next contract that the plowing contractor will take care of any refrozen ice on roads without charging the town extra if requested by the road commissioner.
Chris Ellis, an owner of Ellis Construction, said he does what the contract requires, but the contract doesn’t include things such as clearing catch basins.
“If it’s in the contract, I’m the first one to do it. If it’s not in the contract and they want to call me, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s fine,” Ellis said Friday.
The selectmen awarded the three-year contract to Ellis Construction last summer despite objections from several residents who complained about the contractor in the meetings leading up to the board’s decision. The board chose Ellis Construction with a bid of $487,500 over three years over McGee Construction, of West Gardiner, which bid $576,000 for the three-year contract.
Many of the same residents later accused the contractor of not having all of the required equipment.
Choate said that although a contractor shouldn’t be responsible for something such as water from the Fire Department freezing on the roadway, the plowing contractor should take care of problems caused by nature, such as ice melting and then refreezing on the road.
“That’s what you signed up for,” he said.
The contract doesn’t address the specific issues raised by Choate and others, but it does state that extra sand and salt should be applied to hills, curves and intersections as necessary for maximum safety. It also says the contractor is responsible for any expenses incurred in the performance of the contract.
The selectmen held a pre-bid meeting last summer to try to avoid controversy about the plowing contract, but that failed to quell the objections to the winning contractor and the contract.
“We’ve had issues with every contract with a certain number of residents,” Ebert said. “This is no different than any of the other contracts we’ve done. It’s town politics. Someone is going to have a problem with something you do all the time.”
“We’ll be rewriting the whole thing, I’m sure,” he added.