Longshore pool renovation funds OK'd despite waves over job bids
The Representative Town Meeting on Tuesday approved $308,000 to renovate three swimming pools at Longshore Club Park, turning aside a request that officials consider more bidders on the job before awarding the contract.
Most of the work will be done on the main pool, also known as the lap pool, Stuart McCarthy, parks and recreation director, told RTM members.
He said problems, including leaks, need to be fixed and drains replaced at the pool built in the 1930s. "If the pool fails during the summer, then the facility will be closed," McCarthy said.
He said 50 percent of the cost for the renovation work would be covered by user fees, which were increased this year.
McCarthy said the work will be done by Custom Aquatics in North Haven, which had been hired to do maintenance on the pools.
That business also maintains the pool at Staples High School and other commercial pools locally, he said.
He said he didn't seek bids on the renovation project since "there are few in the area that will work with commercial pools," and Custom Aquatics is one of them.
"This seems a little like favoritism" since the selected company is also doing other projects in town, said RTM member Arthur Ashman, District 7.
"The town of Westport only has two pools -- Staples and Longshore," said McCarthy, adding if the pools need maintenance "these are the guys you want."
A motion was made by RTM member Kristan Hamlin, District 4, to postpone voting on the renovation funding request until McCarthy sends out an RFP, or request for proposals, to seek bids on the project from at least two more companies.
She said the project is not scheduled to begin until April, because of weather considerations, and "we have the time" to delay a vote.
"You can go out within the next few days" for bids on the project, she told McCarthy.
"We might save a couple hundred thousand for the town," she added. Hamlin also noted it's a matter of "transparency" and "government ethics 101" to have several bidders to select from.
Hamlin's initial motion concerning bids and an amended version, however, were both voted down after a lengthy debate.
On the original motion, RTM member Rick Weber, District 9, said he trusts the people, like McCarthy, and "we have to have faith" in them.
But Clarissa Moore, District 4, said that "it's not an issue of having trust," adding, "I hope it does go out to bid."
The final vote by the RTM was 27 in favor of approving the funding, with Hamlin casting the sole vote against the motion, and two abstentions, one of them by Moore.