Casco re-awards reval bid

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Public participation was strictly limited to 10 minutes by the time elected officials had tackled some of the tough and emotional issues on the agenda, and the clock’s hands lined up at 9:40 p.m.

However, this town’s residents had a liberal amount of time to talk — because the Casco Board of Selectmen spent just shy of an hour in a closed door executive session.

At the beginning of the evening, Chairman Barbara York cited executive session pursuant to 1M.R.S.A. subsection 405(6) (E), which pertains to rules regarding contract agreement issues. Technically, contracts are regarded like employment, and by executive session policy are treated the same way as personnel issues — not to be discussed in public.

The vote to move into executive session was, 3-2, with Selectmen Mary-Vienessa Fernandes and Ray Grant opposed.

On Tuesday, when the board emerged from its executive session, some of its members had re-thought their votes that last month awarded the revaluation bid to a company that in the eyes of many community members had not done the job property owners had hoped for.

In a turn of events, the board voted to make null and void the contract with John E. O’Donnell and Associates. In the same motion, the board backed the hiring of Vision Government Solutions for the property revaluation bid as well as a one-year contract as the town’s assessing firm.

According to a spreadsheet of the bid prices from four companies, Vision offered to do the property assessment job for $218,500. (This amount is almost $70,000 less than O’Donnell’s bid.)

The room broke into applause over the board’s reversal of decision. People said they favored the lower cost as well as starting fresh with a firm that did not have a contentious past in the minds of local landowners.

The new vote was, 3-2, with Chairman York and Selectman Paul Edes sticking by their guns — going with the firm for which they had originally cast their vote.

Last month, the board majority had awarded both the revaluation job and a five-year contract to O’Donnell.

Tuesday night’s turn of events may very well have been pushed into play by the people who showed up and spoke at a meeting two weeks ago. Audience members expressed their concerns about the town spending money on the firm that had disappointed them when it took over a revaluation that had been half-completed in 2007. Not to mention O’Donnell was the highest bidder, people had pointed out.

Residents did not keep quiet. They did not keep quiet when a citizens’ signature referendum passed at town meeting. And, residents did not stay hushed about any displeasure over the bid being handed to O’Donnell with a 3–2 vote on April 10.

When Tuesday’s executive session wrapped up, the swing vote was held in Selectman Tracy Kimball’s hands, and she made her change of heart known.

“A lot of things have happened in the past two weeks. We have decided to not accept the contract for O’Donnell,” Kimball said, offering up the new motion.

Following the vote, Kimball said, “I just wanted to say this. I want to tell Mike and John O’Donnell that in no way do I have any less confidence in them than I walked into the building this evening.”

“I do not want to set you up for a project that may not be completed reasonably — since many people in the community may be unwilling participants,” she said.

“I’ve received a lot of feedback in the form of emails and letters,” Kimball said, stressed the word ‘feedback’ as though it was not all positive comments.

She asked if Bob Levesque was present, and people shouted that he was still out of state. So, she said he could probably watch the video, and turned to the camera.

“Mr. Levesque, I don’t appreciate your bullying tactics,” Kimball said.

As happened a few years ago, the selectmen had received communication from Casco summer resident Levesque. The correspondence stated that a recall was an option for those seated officials who made erroneous decisions regarding the awarding of the property revaluation bid.

“My decision is in the best of interest of the community,” Kimball said. “So, don’t think you bullied me into my decision-making process.”

On Wednesday morning, Town Manager Dave Morton said, “The selectmen made the decision they thought was appropriate. And, the board members had been struggling with it for awhile.”

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