August 3, 2007

Selectmen reel in DPW

GOFFSTOWN - On Monday, July 23rd, selectmen met with DPW Director Carl Quiram to discuss the current status of Goffstown's road plan.  That discussion resulted in sweeping changes as to how Quiram's department will be doing business, at least next year.

Among the items discussed were the status of the roundabout, the Rosemont draining project, Quiram's purchase of the town's new excavator, and DPW's overall work schedule.

Roundabout behind schedule

In a June 14th article in the Goffstown News (see Last round of construction proceeds in Grasmere), DPW had predicted the Grasmere roundabout would be completed "within two weeks." As of today, the roundabout is still under construction with, according to Quiram, one more pipe on Center Street to be installed. Quiram also stated on July 23rd that DPW has spent $26,000 in overtime and materials.

Excavator purchase questioned again

For at least two years, Quiram had supported the outright purchase of the town's rented excavator, claiming such an expenditure would save the town money in the long run. A special article asking for $100,000 for that purchase failed in 2006.  But this year, Quiram was granted a CIP allotment of $80,000 to go forward with that excavator purchase, rather than continue renting it.

Selectmen were soon pleased to learn that Quiram had managed to purchase it for much less, " the sixty-something thousand range."  But at the selectmen's meeting of June 18th, Quiram was chastised when it was learned he had, without authorization, spent the resulting savings on upgrades to the excavator. That savings, selectmen pointed out at the time, should have been returned to the taxpayers, and as a result was no longer a savings.

Then at the meeting of July 23rd, it was revealed that although the town finally owned its excavator, Quiram is now leasing a second excavator, again negating any savings the town might have realized by purchasing the first one.

Rosemont project underestimated

Another item that irked selectmen, especially Nick Campasano and Chairman John Caprio, was Quiram's announcement that the $600,000 estimate he had previously provided them for the Rosemont drainage project has now gone up to $900,000. 

That project was to be done in conjunction with the city of Manchester.  When questioned by Campasano as to how this $300,000 discrepancy could have occurred, Quiram replied that he had never shown Manchester his original plans before submitting his estimate to the town.  After Manchester was shown the plans, Quiram discovered numerous issues such as gas and water lines, the depth of digging required, among other oversights, raising the cost of the project to $900,000. 

The result is that the project will no longer go forward as planned.

The $600,000 that was to have been used for the project was a CIP allotment that was originally deducted from Quiram's request for $2M+ for the Road Plan in 2007 just before the March vote.  The monies will now be returned to the general fund until a new plan for the project can be put together. 

Accurate cost analysis needed

During the meeting, Quiram stated that doing road building work in-house is far less expensive than putting that work out to bid.  He then quoted figures of $50/square yard for outsourcing work vs. $15/square yard for his department to do the work. 

But once again, it was pointed out that Quiram's in-house figure of $15 failed to include anything but materials.  It omitted labor costs, insurance costs, pensions, benefits, fuel, depreciation, maintenance and equipment costs.  Also, as pointed out by selectmen, Quiram's quotes are simple "snapshots" of specific projects and do not reflect the additional expenses DPW incurs by carrying its crews year-round, capital expenditures on equipment, etc. 

Selectmen also pointed out that no other town's Public Works department of similar size, other than Hudson's, does any road-building in house.  Selectman Scott Gross then suggested that the town obtain an independent, outside firm to study and report on whether or not Quiram's claims that doing work in-house is less expensive are accurate.  Such an independent analysis would then be used to potentially redefine the scope of DPW activities in the future, if needed.

Maintenance only

As a result of their discussions with Quiram, selectmen voted to restrict Quiram's department next year to road maintenance only, putting all other activities such as construction, reclamation, roundabouts and bridge work out to bid.  

Once the results of an independent analysis of the cost-effectiveness of doing such work in-house vs. outsourcing is complete, selectmen stated their intention to revisit the new policy if needed.


• Editorial:  Have you stopped and smelled the asphalt?
Selectmen again question DPW spending 

Last round of construction proceeds in Grasmere


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