Last night’s meeting was big enough to have to relocate to the fire station. How appropriate!
After some initial business Steve Darrow mentioned the “Fire Brews”mailing and made a statement which is included below. Sean, who called in for the meeting, had a colorful response which will be available as soon as I get access to the video to transcribe the comments. i.e. Fire House Drama Part 3!
The bottom line at this point is the town cancelled Joe Brown’s contract, which will have some financial consequences. No work will happen this year. And a new warrant article will go to the voters next year. John Babiarz is sure the “voters will do the right thing again”. I think we’re all better educated now about fire station heating improvements and suspect that the town will be more cautious when discussing and voting on it next year. And people seemed to agree that an independent engineer, with no ties to those involved, should be hired to review and sign off on the specs for the work.
Steve Darrow’s statement:
Recently we all found some “spin” in our mailboxes. There is a different series of events that happened according to many folks who attended the meetings and who took the time to look at the minutes from the meetings, read over the original insufficient RFP submitted by John Babiarz, the following documents prepared by Steve Darrow in preparation for the project and in conjunction with the Town Counsel, rather than one of the competing bidders (Partridge) on the project.
First and foremost – John Babiarz nor Sean Frost ever mentioned that Partridge heating was involved with the design and plan for installation of heating system. Had John Babiarz disclosed this information, Partridge heating would have had to withdraw from the bidding procedure due to a major conflict of interest. The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued decisions regarding showing favoritism. This smacks of favoritism. (for those who need verification on this, go to the Supreme Court or to your legal counsel)
Many residents were deeply concerned with the process of John Babiarz (claiming that he alone designed the system) would specify what type of system would be installed rather than an engineer, someone more qualified. The cost of the heating system was exorbitant and included solar panels that were considered to have such a poor return on investment.
Many in town have stated they feel it is inappropriate to tear up the existing floor as Babiarz and apparently Partridge had decided in their spec plans. That it would be more appropriate to wait and see if the system does indeed fail. John Babiarz’ response to that is “I like to be pro-active” and his response to one concerned resident about the solar panels? “The problem is that no one in this town thinks”
Regardless of many concerns raised, Sean Frost stubbornly insisted that Partridge receive the contract as is. During the process (and many witnessed this) Sean Frost berated the opposing bidder, Smith River, and even questioned his intelligence several times claiming that he knew more about contracts and heating systems than Smith River. His demeanor has remained as it has at most meetings, overbearing, finger wagging and threatening. He made a motion to accept the bid of Partridge, John Babiarz friend and apparently we now find out co-creator of the original RFP. Jennie Joyce seconded but said she felt the solar panels were completely out of line. Steve Darrow voted against, stating that he felt the RFP was inadequate as specified and that the solar panels were a great expense and poor return on investment.
Once Partridge was accepted, Steve Darrow said he would submit the proposal of Partridge to Town counsel. Town counsel came back saying the proposal was completely inadequate and would need to be rewritten. (see attached correspondence) It was rewritten and submitted to Partridge for review. Sean refused to allow Partridge to post a bond and said a “letter of credit” would do. He again stated he was an authority on this. Just this afternoon, our Town Counsel said absolutely wrong and New Hampshire law requires the bond, not a letter of credit.
At this time, Partridge decided his schedule had filled up and declined to take the job. We will never know if he simply did not care for a legal contract that properly protected the town from liability.
At the Selectman meeting where Partridge letter declining contract, was received, selectman agreed (see minutes) to revise the RFP so that it contained the language to allow for more flexibility for the heating contractors to determine what would be necessary to adequately heat the fire department. Again, concerned citizens spoke about the lack of professional planning for such a huge project. Sean Frost stated that “usually you people don’t want to spend money but now you want to spend money on an engineer” According to him it was an expense to be avoided as he had all of the knowledge needed.
At this same meeting Steve Darrow brought up that he thought it would be a good idea to spend some time reaching out to more heating contractors for the second round of bidding. Although it had been posted properly, only two bids were received, one by town resident Joe Brown of Smith River and one by John Babiarz’ friend and apparent co-designer of system, Partridge heating. Steve Darrow suggested sending out the RFP’s requesting bids rather than just posting and also he made another suggestion. Why not reach out to the heating contractor that did the church? During previous conversation with John Babiarz, John mentioned that “someone” had done a “fine job” down at the church. But for some reason, John Babiarz never brought nor asked the office to bring the RFP to that gentleman and invite for a bid on the project. For that matter, Sean Frost lives across the street from Brian Rogers who wondered why he wasn’t contacted. In the meantime, Steve Darrow and Sue started looking for and sending out invitations to bid on the RFP, including one to Kevin McCullough the church contractor. At least one of the contractors sent back a correspondence explaining that he could not bid on such an inadequate set of specs (see attached correspondence).
The bids were due in the office on Monday the 12th. Sean however, chose to personally receive the bid of Kevin McCullough on his person and pulled it out of his back pocket at the Selectman meeting on the 14th.
Sean Frost, without reviewing Smith River bid, made a motion to accept Kevin McCullough’s bid and no one seconded his motion. At that time, Jennie and Steve were looking over Smith River’s proposal, which was much more detailed and had many more options than Kevin McCullough’s one page proposal. Joe Brown was asked several questions concerning the bid. After more discussion and a break for a nonpublic session, Steve Darrow motioned to accept Smith River’s proposal and Jennie Joyce seconded.
As the RFP clearly states, the contract would include the Town Counsel contract along with the proposal as a legal addendum. That construction meetings would occur regularly and include John Babiarz, Contractor and a Selectman.
Sean called both Jennie Joyce and Steve Darrow to report his concerns. A response (see attached) was immediately sent to him, to John Babiarz and the first construction meeting scheduled for Smith River to sign contract. Smith River also sent a correspondence (see attached) addressing concerns. Smith River needed a 7:00 am meeting Monday morning to get one of his subcontractors in right away. The meeting was coordinated by Sue, with John Babiarz and Steve Darrow.
What ensued was unethical and hostile. Rather than requesting a meeting, disclosing an agenda, Sean Frost along with his family and friends decided to crash this meeting. Sean came in before 7:00, chatted with everyone, hid in a back room when Steve Darrow and Joe Smith entered the building at 7:00. Steve Darrow was accosted by the crowd, who had not come to meetings and may not have read the documents prepared that reassured all State and Federal regulations had to be met. That Babiarz could have worked with Smith River to have this project move forward this year.