RUMFORD — During a bid-process workshop Thursday night, selectmen and department heads aired concerns about the system and a proposed change.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said he would like more insight on pending bid processes pitched by department heads and Town Manager Carlo Puiia, like two weeks prior to the board being asked to OK recommendations.
Selectman Jeff Sterling said he'd like the town's policy changed to allow department heads to negotiate with bidders or vendors for a better deal to save the town money.
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy wanted more transparency in the bid-opening process by having selectmen open bids during meetings rather than department heads and Puiia.
"I know that's extremely cumbersome, but I want it done," she said. "Our job is to open bids, look at the bids and always pass them, provided they meet the requirements of the specification sheet."
Police Chief Stacy Carter and fire Chief Robert Chase objected to that, saying they need to open bids prior to a board meeting to review the bids and specifications "to see what is the best purchase for the town."
Chase said some of his specification sheets are 60 to 90 pages long for firetrucks.
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said he wants to be there when bids are opened and wants them read out at board meetings, "so we all know who bid at what price."
"I need a reason why I should be recommending a bid or bidder to say why I feel it would be good for the town," he said.
Buccina said the only time he learns that a department head wants capital equipment is when it comes before selectmen to approve a bid recommendation. And then, he said, there's no chance to try to bargain the price down.
Lovejoy asked why the town should put things out to bid if that's what the board wants to do.
"I think we could save a lot of money by doing this bid process differently," Buccina said. "It irks me that we can't negotiate beyond that point when the bids come in."
Lovejoy said she didn't know the difference between a ladder truck and a pumper truck, but that's why the board relies on department heads.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mills said his five-person board should be making decisions on bids and not him alone. The problem, he said, is that his board doesn't meet for two to three weeks after bids come in.