Caribou retains its own public works for city snow removal

4 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — After reviewing two bids from private companies, Caribou will continue using its own public works department for parking lot plowing and snow removal.

The city first discussed the bids on Aug. 10, and City Manager Dennis Marker introduced the item indicating that the intent was to mirror what Presque Isle does in their community.

The city received one bid from Silver Star that encompassed nearly all of the work performed by the city’s Public Works Department and another from Soderberg Construction that focused on parking lot plowing and parking lot snow removal.

The bids were compared to how much the city pays its own workers to perform these tasks, with plowing and snow removal for parking lots costing public works $23,000. Soderberg Construction bid $89,350, and Silver Star bid $141,000 for these two items. 

For all of the services, Silver Star bid $1,768,049 compared to public works’ total cost of $1,102,882.

Marker said that as the city went through the bidding process they did not anticipate that 100 percent of these services would be done by bidders. He said the city included in the bid that municipal crews would continue to clear hydrants and provide snow blowing services for trucks. 

He said based on the bids being significantly higher than what the city pays public works, the city cannot recommend awarding the contract to a private company.

With both Mayor Mark Goughan and Councilor Hugh Kirkpatrick absent from the meeting, a motion to table the discussion for the next meeting was not able to receive the four votes needed to pass. A subsequent motion not to hire any outside companies failed.

During the council’s next meeting on Aug. 24, Caribou resident Bruce Hagelstein suggested the city not accept any of the bids from outside companies.

“I hate to say it,” he said, “but it’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s a $600,000 difference between the bid for everything and public works. If you go out for a private bid on this type of service for a community, that contractor has to make a buck — otherwise he can’t do it. The city and public works are not in the business of making money. They are in the business of providing a service and we have to keep that in mind.”

Later in the meeting, when councilors offered no specific wishes concerning the contract, Gaughan said the city will continue using the public works department. 

He said the $23,000 figure provided by the department for parking lot snow plowing and removal was relatively cheap, and asked Marker to send detailed information on how the figure was determined.

“I don’t need to know anybody’s pay,” the mayor said, “but I would like it broken down between regular par and overtime pay.”

He said he would like to form a committee to look into these numbers and study the issue further.