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1/22/2014 6:00:00 PM
Damariscotta Tables Decision on Snow Contract
By J.W. Oliver

Damariscotta has options to extend its snowplowing contracts for two years at the same price, but two selectmen have concerns.

Damariscotta Board of Selectmen Chairman Josh Pinkham and 2nd Vice Chairwoman Vicki Pinkham expressed those concerns at the board's Jan. 15 meeting.

Damariscotta has two contracts with Hagar Enterprises Inc. - one for the roads and one for the downtown, which includes the majority of the back municipal parking lot and most sidewalks. The town pays $118,994.63 for the roads and $75,249.64 for the downtown, a total of $194,244.27 a year.

Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus, in a memo to the selectmen, said Hagar Enterprises does high-quality work and the town receives "very favorable" feedback from residents.

The town does, however, need to address a couple of issues with the contract, Lutkus said.

The town would like Hagar Enterprises to accept responsibility for the entire back parking lot at the same price.

The town did not own the entire lot at the outset of the contract, and private property owners would pay Hagar Enterprises to plow their sections of the lot. The town has since completed the acquisition of the lot. Now, Damariscotta's part-time public works staff plows those sections.

Hagar Enterprises also stores materials for other jobs in the town sand-and-salt shed, which violates the contract, Lutkus said.

Josh Pinkham said the town needs to address those issues, as well as "extremely hazardous" conditions resulting from Hagar Enterprises' failure, in his opinion, to follow the contract.

"I'm out in these storms and there have been times when the conditions were extremely hazardous, with 8 to 10 inches of snow on a roadway," said Josh Pinkham, who drives a plow truck. "When your plow's up and you're plowing down a road, it's extremely hazardous."

"I've received complaints from the ambulance service about trying to get to Bristol and just barely making it, thank God, for a

first responder call," he said.

The contract calls for Hagar Enterprises to sand all roads by 6 a.m., and the contractor has not completed some roads until as late as 9 a.m., he said.

As for the storage issue, other contractors might have changed their bids if aware of the ability to use the shed for their own purposes, he said.

Damariscotta Road Commissioner Steve Reynolds said he does not object to the storage arrangement.

The extra material in the shed actually benefits the town, because the value of the material acts as collateral and substitutes for a performance bond, and the absence of a performance bond saves the town money, Reynolds said.

"I think the key is, our roads are being serviced and maintained with the utmost integrity and professionalism," Reynolds said.

The town should change the contract to allow the contractor to store material in the shed, Reynolds said.

Vicki Pinkham said Hagar Enterprises "does a heck of a job," with the exception of "a few days" when the roads were icy because the drivers did not apply sand as fast as they should have.

"The only thing is, I feel bad for the other contractors," Vicki Pinkham said. "We're gobbling this up year after year by extending and extending and extending and it gives no one else a chance, and there are other contractors out there."

"I would like to be fair in that aspect, and I think Hagar would be pounding on our door if it was one of the other contractors that wanted an extension," she said.

Selectman David Atwater disagreed with the Pinkhams.

Hagar Enterprises has come in with the low bid on a couple of recent construction projects in the town, Atwater said. The bids have been well below the project estimates and have saved the town significant sums of money.

"Why are we beating them up over storing some extra sand at the shed?" Atwater said. "I think we're foolish to be nickel-and-diming this."

Atwater eventually moved to extend both contracts for two years, but withdrew his motion when Josh Pinkham objected.

Josh Pinkham asked Lutkus to compile cost-per-mile figures from other Lincoln County towns before the town decides whether to extend the contract.

"Get the information," he said. "That's our job, as representatives of the community, to look at it. It doesn't hurt."

The board will review the figures from nearby towns and discuss the contracts again at its next meeting. The meeting will take place at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Damariscotta town office.

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