The Farmingdale Board of Selectmen might negotiate with a local contractor over a snowplowing bid that came in about a third higher than what the town can spend.

At the board meeting Wednesday night, a week after opening the three-year, $811,965 bid from McGee Construction, a few residents angry at the possibility of taxes going up to pay for the contract told the selectmen to throw the bid out and start over.

Selectman James Grant promised the residents he wouldn’t approve a contract higher than the $200,000 for this winter that residents approved at the Town Meeting in June.

“We will not raise taxes in this town to pay for this year’s plowing contract. I will not vote to accept that,” Grant said.

He said he would have to re-evaluate if the board issued a new contract and all the bids came in higher than $200,000 for the first year.

Grant suggested holding an executive session Thursday night to negotiate the price of the contract with McGee Construction, but the town attorney, Mary Denison from Lake & Denison, advised the board by email Thursday that they couldn’t go into executive session for the negotiation.

Town Clerk Rose Webster said she didn’t expect the board to do anything before its meeting Wednesday. David Sirois, chairman of the board, didn’t respond to a phone call for comment Thursday.

Mike McGee, project manager for McGee Construction, told the selectmen at the meeting he would like to sit down with Steve McGee, owner of the company, and the board to talk about the contract before they throw out the contract.

The selectmen and the previous contractor, Farmingdale-based Ellis Construction, agreed in August to end the three-year, $487,500 contract after a year of steady complaints from several residents at board meetings.

The board revised the contract, attempting to clear up sections that led to some of the disagreements, and put it out to bid again. Only McGee Construction in West Gardiner and E.C. Barry and Son Construction in Farmingdale attended a mandatory pre-bid meeting Sept. 2, but because the board made several changes to the contract at the meeting, the town attorney advised the board to allow other interested contractors to bid.

Ellis Construction and McGee Construction submitted bids, but two members of the three-member board, Grant and Nancy Frost, voted to not open the Ellis Construction bid.

That left McGee Construction’s bid of $264,000 for the first year, $270,600 for the second and $277,365 for the third as the only one.

Ellis Construction won the contract last year with a bid of $162,500 for each of the three years.

Steven Connors, of Russell Street, said at the meeting he has nothing to do with the battle over the snowplowing contract, but he has a problem with the possibility of the board increasing taxes to pay for it.

“It does not matter who plows it, but when you start passing out thousands and thousands of dollars extra because you don’t like the guy plowing, there’s something wrong with this town,” Connors said. “It’s my taxes, and my kids that live in this town’s, taxes. If you think I’m going to sit by idly, you are wrong.”

David Cyr, of Sheldon Street, blamed the board for putting the town in “this tenuous situation” and said he couldn’t believe the board was considering going into executive session to negotiate the contract.

“This is the town’s money. You’ve already blown it with this shenanigans that’s going on here. I don’t understand it,” he said.

“If you want to do what’s right for the town and you want to get everybody calmed down, you’ve got to put it out to bid,” Cyr added.

The meeting also revealed tensions between Grant and Sirois, who wanted to open the bid from Ellis Construction. Sirois said the board put itself in this situation with the decisions it made.

“We only have one bidder, and the fact that we pre-approved subcontracting for the contractor eliminated one of the bidders in the room,” he said, referring to E.C. Barry & Son Contracting subcontracting for McGee Construction. “So one by one the bidders were eliminated until there was only one.”

Sirois then asked Grant if Grant told McGee Construction before the bidding that the board wouldn’t be opening the bid from Ellis Construction.

“I have not told anybody I would not open anybody’s bid,” Grant responded.

The two selectmen clashed again later in the meeting when discussing how Sirois asked Denison, the town attorney, about allowing Ellis Construction to bid.

“I have no idea what you asked Mary and I have no idea what her response was. I don’t even know if you asked her anything,” Grant said to Sirois. Grant said it’s a violation of select board policy to not put narratives of discussions with the town attorney in writing.

Sirois said he did ask Denison. He also said that Ellis Construction was going to contest the bidding process if it didn’t get the chance to bid.

“If there’s any question about that, you can talk to Mary yourself and you can ask her if I asked her that question. I’m not going to have my credibility questioned at a select board meeting from you,” Sirois said to Grant, emphasizing his last two words.

The board is next scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the town office.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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