Petersham officials prepare to release Nichewaug scope of services proposal
PETERSHAM — The selectboard on Tuesday distributed the second draft of the Nichewaug Inn scope of services proposal, amended to reflect feedback gathered last week, and scheduled for release in the coming days. Voters at the Sept. 21 special town meeting authorized the hiring of a consultant to determine feasible, fiscally sound options for the property going forward, with additional consideration for the water and septic needs of the adjacent Petersham Memorial Library.
Vice chair Henry Woolsey, describing the document as “more or less done already,” said the proposal should be tailored to the town’s unique needs, but that an overly narrow scope could limit the creative direction of the consultant. Clerk Fredrik Marsh similarly said providing excessive direction would be “bordering on telling the consultant what to do, rather than him telling us.”
With those sentiments in mind, the board opened the discussion to residents, seeking final suggestions for revision before placing the $25,000 project out to bid.
Some residents wondered whether a prospective consultant would be well-schooled in the constraints of a septic and water system, with one suggesting the town hire an engineer to assess these needs prior to soliciting bids. Another resident said designating this particular skill set as a prerequisite for the project could produce a limited pool of candidates, and the resulting need to hire a sub-consultant who possesses such credentials.
Woolsey said, “The septic and water supply is part of the whole situation. The library is mentioned in the scope and in the warrant article passed at town meeting. [Assessing the water and septic needs] is part of what we’re paying the consultant to do.” After further discussion, Woolsey agreed to devote a greater emphasis in the amended report to the inspection of the water supply.
Additional concerns centered on the quick turnaround for potential applicants, who have until Nov. 25 to submit proposals for the project once it goes out to bid. Woolsey, noting the town increasingly values “thoughtful proposals,” agreed with Marsh that the Nov. 25 deadline could be extended by at least one month, as proposed by a resident.
In addition, one resident expressed concern with ambiguous language in the “Planning Process” section, which calls for the consultant to hold three public meetings, not precluding “additional meetings... as deemed necessary.” She said the section should specify that additional meetings would be scheduled at the discretion of the consultant.
The board eventually voted to accept the amended version of the proposal, with updated language to reflect the extended deadline, increased emphasis on water and septic, and clarification on the scheduling of meetings. The board was to accept further feedback until 4 p.m. Thursday.
Marsh also noted that candidates will be screened in open and executive sessions, meaning residents will play a vital role in the selection process.
Proposed options for the future direction of the property would require a two-thirds vote for passage.
Demolition/asbestos abatement low bid
The board also offered a status update on the low bid received for demolition and asbestos abatement at the Nichewaug Inn property, after voters rejected the appropriation of funds at the special town meeting.
Administrative Assistant Steven Boudreau, having apprised the bidder of the rejection of funds, said he asked Assistant Attorney General Deborah Anderson last week whether the town would have to rebid the project, or could instead ask the applicant to honor his bid in the future. Anderson’s response read, “The award should have ideally said ‘subject to funding,’ but I see no problem awarding [in the future] to the low bidder.”
Woolsey said the bid was “considerably lower” than the others received by the town, and Marsh added it would be “foolish to even think he’ll honor it.”
Asked why the board was moved to reach out to Anderson, Woolsey said town counsel requested for the proposal for redevelopment submitted by Michael Tavares last year to be closed out. However, he indicated the board has taken no action on the matter. The bids for demolition/abatement and the proposal from Tavares were both rejected at the special town meeting.
Chair Nancy Allen said the town has secured $12,000 to replace the existing town hall handicap ramp, which has fallen into a state of disrepair, and the board agreed to conduct a site visit next week.
In an initial meeting with the board, Tyler Wolanin, district director for Sen. Anne Gobi, offered his office’s services to the town and its residents. One resident, advising Wolanin of Verizon’s indication that Petersham has exceeded capacity for DSL bandwidth, asked whether Sen. Gobi could use her position on the Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy Joint Committee to pressure the company to offer a statement on the matter. Wolanin agreed to investigate the matter further.
Heywood PILOT agreement
Allen advised she will meet Friday with Heywood Healthcare attorney John Fick to review the draft of the payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the former Sisters of Assumption property.
The board approved a business certificate request from Jason Eldredge, of Eldredge Electric. The business is to be sited at 48 C, West St.
The board approved a Chapter 90 reimbursement request in the amount of $23,495.90 to Tim Graves, highway department superintendent.
The next meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m., in the lower level of the town hall, and at the call of the chair as needed.