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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dickinson: Outside help is OK with me

As published in the Record Journal on Thursday February 14, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — While Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. prefers that the town’s workforce clear its snow, he’s not philosophically opposed to bringing in outside contractors, and is, in fact, considering putting the service out to bid “if snow keeps coming down like this,” he said Wednesday.

Dickinson clarified his attitude toward private contractors after an article in Wednesday’s Record-Journal incorrectly stated that he doesn’t believe in using them. The town simply hires contractors for snow removal on an as needed basis and does not budget for them as some other cities and towns do.

“It’s not that we don’t ever do it,” he said. “We just do it when it’s necessary.”

For this past weekend’s blizzard, Dickinson said, the town rented a front loader that came with an operator, as well as another piece of snow removal equipment that was operated by a town employee.

“This time we got some equipment, but we didn’t reach a point” where the town needed to bring in outside contractors, Dickinson said.

Dickinson used the Department of Public Utilities as an example of the town bringing in outside contractors to assist during emergencies. George Adair, the department’s director, said the town hires outside help for “two primary areas.”

Adair said Asplundh Tree Expert Co., of East Windsor, performs zone trimming annually. The company trims vegetation on one-quarter of the town’s roads. Adair said Asplundh is also brought in to do “spot trimming on an as needed basis.”

Another example is Thirau LLC, an electrical contracting company based in Newington, which is brought in to help the Department of Public Utilities, mainly during emergencies, Adair said.

The company provides linemen, who are “utilized and often pre-positioned prior to major events” such as Hurricane Irene or Superstorm Sandy, Adair said.

Adair said companies are hired on multiyear contracts through competitive bidding. He stressed that the town is capable of repairing power lines and trimming trees, but that hiring outside help is crucial so “we don’t have to maintain folks just for those purposes.”

There are “times when we don’t have enough people to respond to an emergency event,” he said.

Dickinson said he may look into hiring contractors to remove snow through the bidding process. In Southington, 10 to 15 private contractors have been on the road helping clear snow in the past few days, according to Town Manager Garry Brumback. The town secures snow removal contractors every year by putting the service out to bid.

Dickinson said Public Works Department staff and town officials will have to assess if putting snow removal services out to bid is a good idea.

“We may already have some capabilities with existing bids” through the Board of Education, Dickinson said.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said the district signed a three-year contract with a snow removal company last spring. The district puts the work out to bid every three years, but “sometimes extensions are granted,” Menzo said. “We’re very satisfied with what was done this storm,” Menzo said.

Dickinson said that, if the school system has successfully hired a contractor for snow removal through the bidding process, the town might be able to “just use the existing bid.”

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