Letter: Why no bids for library HVAC system?

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

At the last meeting of the Board of Aldermen on July 8, 2021, the BOA voted to waive the bidding process and award a no-bid contract to replace the HVAC system at Plumb Memorial Library. This follows a post on the City Hall Facebook page on the same day saying that the Plumb Memorial Library “may be closed on warm days as the main air conditioning compressor is non-functional,” and saying that the city was having trouble getting parts “due to the pandemic.”

The pandemic is becoming a convenient excuse for the city to blame every instance of basic mismanagement. The fact of the matter is that the HVAC system at the library has been struggling and in need of repair for years, and the poor ventilation in the library has likely had detrimental effects on the staff’s health.

The city infrastructure has been neglected while the mayor decreases tax revenues by lowering the mill rate every time there is an election cycle, which is every two years. Now city employees and residents are paying the price in illness and lack of city library services. This during the summer following the pandemic closures, when we really need our libraries to be open for business as kids and adults alike need to use its resources for reading, research and programming.

I understand that the members of the BOA were in a tough position last Thursday when they were asked to vote on this project, because now it is an emergency that needs to be fixed yesterday. But it should not have gotten to this point. And since the BOA did have one bid that states that it was submitted “based on documents provided during the bidding process,” that means that the city did provide this one company with specifications needed to bid on the project.

Why could those specifications have not been provided to a number of companies equipped to perform the work so that there could have been some kind of competitive bidding process, even if it did not fully conform or had to be shortened due to the emergency nature of the work at this point? How do we know that we are getting the best value for our tax dollars when we are waiving the bidding process and just awarding the contract to the first company that comes to mind?

And finally, it appears based on the vote taken Thursday that the cost of this project is going to be borrowed through the bonding process, once again adding to the debt burden of the city. This action is approved by the BOA despite the fact that the city is scheduled to receive millions of dollars through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). We have seen no public process telling us where that money is going to be spent, or debating the best use of those funds. That money could perhaps be used for infrastructure projects like the HVAC system at the library, so that we don’t need to borrow and bond.

But we see no analysis from City Hall on that, and no public discussion of it. Come November, we need a change at City Hall. We need a thoughtful, public, and transparent contracting process and we need our city officials to be willing to put the public interest first. Envision Shelton candidates have the courage to ask the tough questions and address our crumbling infrastructure now.

Michelle Laubin, member (D)

Board of Apportionment and Taxation

Candidate, Ward 4 Board of Aldermen