Vernon moves ahead with Talcottville improvements
By Jason Rowe
VERNON — After a two-week delay, the Town Council has agreed to spend $75,000 to hire a Manchester firm to design upcoming improvements in the Talcottville section of town.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to award the contract to Fuss & O'Neill of Manchester, the company deemed most qualified by a special committee of town officials.
The company will be in charge of engineering and preliminary design work for the improvements, which are expected to include a visitors' center kiosk, directional signage, the extension of the sidewalk on Dobson Road, and landscaping for various sites around Talcottville.
The improvements are expected to enhance the historic manufacturing village, where residents recently approved a plan to designate the area as a historic district.
The work is being funded through a $500,000 federal transportation grant, which was awarded to the town in January 2004.
The grant is administered by the state Department of Transportation.
Under the terms of the grant agreement, the town must use a quality-based selection process when entering into a contract for consulting services.
But Town Council Republicans balked at that requirement during a meeting on Dec. 6.
Unlike the sealed-bid process, in which contracts are awarded based on the lowest price, the quality-based selection process allows governments to award contracts based on the skills and qualifications of a potential contractor.
Republicans, who hold a 7-5 majority on the Town Council, have been critical of that process, saying there is no way to ensure that the town is getting the best price possible.
And during the Dec. 6 meeting, Republicans voted to delay the decision on the contract until a copy of the state regulation could be provided.
On Tuesday, Town Council members received copies of the state regulation as well as documents relating to the process used by the committee to select Fuss & O'Neill.
That committee included Economic Development Director Neil S. Pade, Department of Public Works Director George Fetko, and Town Engineer Tim Timberman.
"In summary, in order for the town of Vernon to utilize the $500,000 grant for Talcottville enhancements, it needs to comply with DOT regulations as it applies to the selection and procurement of a consultant," Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer wrote to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer and Town Council members in a Dec. 15 memorandum.
Before Tuesday's vote, Historic Talcottville Association President Jennifer Gaudet urged the Town Council to approve the contract.
"Let's get this project rolling," Gaudet said. "We've been waiting a long time and it's an exciting opportunity."