SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Board of Selectmen voted at a special meeting Tuesday to award a contract related to an ongoing athletic complex renovation to a company run by one of the board’s members, putting some selectmen on the defensive as they justified the decision.

Skowhegan-based Wentworth Partners & Associates, of which Selectman Steven Govoni is president, was awarded the $60,000 contract for oversight services as the clerk of works.

Steven Govoni Contributed photo/Morning Sentinel file

The clerk of works is a project manager charged with overseeing the contractor hired to construct a new athletic complex at the Skowhegan Community Center at 39 Poulin Drive.

The Board of Selectmen agreed that contracting the position was necessary after the recent construction of Skowhegan’s public safety building on East Madison Road drew criticism from some officials and residents.

With Govoni abstaining, the four other selectmen voted unanimously to award Wentworth the contract. Govoni’s engineering and design firm was the only company to submit a bid.

Kris Laney, a member of the public at Tuesday morning’s special meeting, questioned the decision to award the contract to a member of the board’s company.


“If you want to do work for the town, you should resign,” Laney told Govoni.

Govoni responded that municipal ethics guidelines required him to abstain from the vote but did not prohibit his company from being hired as a contractor.

George Bell, a Skowhegan resident with an extensive background in construction management, will be hired by the company to do the clerk of works job, Govoni said. Wentworth will not profit from the contract, according to Govoni.

“You’re not getting Steve Govoni and Wentworth Partners,” Govoni said. “You’re getting George Bell. All I’m doing is pushing this money through because he wasn’t going to submit a bid.”

Other companies were more interested in the actual construction contracts than the clerk of works job, Govoni said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Chairman Todd Smith, who later cut off the exchange between Govoni and Laney, said he recognized that voting on the contract at a special meeting could seem like a lack of transparency.


Smith said it was necessary, however, because there has been public pressure to move the project forward as quickly as possible, and there were three weeks between regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen meetings.

Voting on the contract Tuesday morning allowed the contracted clerk of works to attend a Tuesday night meeting of the town’s Recreation Advisory Committee, which was reviewing bids submitted for some parts of the athletic complex, selectmen said.

That committee, which makes recommendations to the Board of Selectmen, discussed four bids submitted for the construction of a maintenance garage and three bids for the construction of a concession stand and new Little League field dugouts.

Additional plans for the complex include a turf multipurpose field with a baseball diamond, a second multipurpose turf field and tennis and pickleball courts. Selectmen voted at their last regular meeting April 23 to wait until late May to put the first phase of that part of the project, which includes the baseball field, out to bid until the clerk of works was hired.

In recent months, some residents and officials have questioned why the project, first planned in 2006, has been moving slowly.

Skowhegan’s baseball and tennis teams are playing this spring without home facilities in town because of the construction of a new, consolidated elementary school, and the new complex would provide new home facilities for the teams.

Town officials said a slow-moving federal approval process required to build the fields and courts has been delaying the project.

Funding could be another hurdle, though town officials have said they will not have a final price tag until contractors submit bids.

The town has more than $5 million secured for the project, including $3 million in congressionally directed spending awarded earlier this year and $1.9 million from selling the Memorial Field complex to School Administrative District 54.

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