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Claremont council member rues transfer station contract

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/28/2022 9:12:00 PM
Modified: 11/28/2022 9:12:03 PM

CLAREMONT — City Councilor Nick Koloski said he has learned a lesson that he won’t forget after the city signed a five-year contract last month to privatize the operation of the city-owned transfer station.

Based on a July council meeting, Koloski understood that the proposed contract would come back to the council for public comment, and perhaps a council vote.

Koloski learned of the contract in an email on Oct. 26 to all councilors from City Manager Yoshi Manales, with attachments of contract highlights with a price list for disposal from DeCamp Waste Services. Manales told councilors the contract would be signed that afternoon. The contract starts Jan. 4.

Koloski emailed the city manager shortly after in response expressing surprise and disappointment at the absence of a public presentation of the agreement.

“As I discussed with the Mayor yesterday, I wanted to make you aware that I was under the impression as well as members of the public that opposed the transfer station privatization that the answers to questions were to come back to the council before signing,” Koloski wrote. “I took that as a public meeting. I did get answers yesterday privately but that is not the public format I hoped it would occur in. Being big into public transparency I feel this process missed the mark. I will be more careful in the future to not operate by general consensus or head nods and make sure it is clear in motions.”

Koloski was referring to a July 13 public hearing, where there was vocal opposition, as well as some support, to privatizing the facility. Prior to the council voting 5-4 to negotiate a contract, Koloski and two others on the council asked about bringing the agreement back for an up or down vote.

“If I vote for this, I want to reaffirm this is going to come back before the council for an up or down vote and at that point, the public can be heard. This isn’t a done deal,” Koloski said, just before he voted in support of the motion to authorize interim City Manager John Bohenko to begin negotiating with DeCamp.

No one on the council objected to Koloski’s statement, though the motion only instructed Bohenko to negotiate with DeCamp; it made no mention of a council vote or further public comment.

Neither the council nor Manales announced the new contract at the Oct. 26 meeting even after Mike Tetu, a staunch opponent of privatization, asked the council several questions about the process and even asked the council to table the issue.

DeCamp was one of two trash hauling companies to submit a request for proposal to operate the facility but the other company, Casella, did not meet all the conditions of the RFP and was eliminated from consideration. For several months, the council had debated ways to eliminate the facility’s annual operating deficit of around $100,000, according to the city, before voting to pursue privatization.

At a public hearing on July 13, at which Koloski asked that the proposed agreement come back to the council, Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau and Councilor Andrew O’Hearne sought the same assurances. At first, Bohenko suggested he present the council with the proposed contract (he did not specify if he would do that publicly) and if there were recommended changes he could work with the mayor to finalize the agreement. Pressed by O’Hearne on whether the contract would come back for a vote, Bohenko said: “If that is what the council wants, that is fine.”

Last week, Mayor Dale Girard and Matteau noted the wording of the motion only authorized the city manager to enter into negotiations with DeCamp. It did not state the proposed contract would be presented publicly nor require a council vote.

“It was not in the motion to bring it back to the council for an up or down vote,” Girard said.

Manales said Monday he came in on the “tail end of the negotiations” and was never made aware by the council of any promise for a public presentation. Neither Manales nor Girard explained why the council did not announce the contract had been signed at the Oct. 26 council meeting.

Councilor Bill Limoges said it was his understanding the council would review it in a meeting but believes the city manager looked at it and just went ahead with the contract. Councilors were asked in the email from Manales to submit any questions they might have.

“My understanding is the council wanted to review it but not to hold a public hearing,” Limoges said.

Councilor Jim Contois declined comment and councilors O’Hearne, Jon Stone and Matt Mooshian did not respond to email messages. Councilor Spencer Batchelder was not on the council in July.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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