PARIS — The Board of Selectmen approved the purchase of a used street sweeper at a special meeting Tuesday, though the question raised a cloud of procedural questions.
Selectmen voted 3-1 to buy a rebuilt Johnston J-3000 sweeper for $46,875. The money will come from a dedicated account of Federal Emergency Management Agency storm reimbursement funds.
Last week, a 2-2 vote on approving the money for the sweeper meant the measure failed. It was brought back to the table at the request of Selectman Jean Smart. The board’s bylaws allow the reconsideration of decisions within 30 days.
Ted Kurtz, who voted against the purchase, said he was concerned with the way the issue was brought back to the table. He said he was informed Thursday by one selectman that they had had repeated conversations with another selectman about reconsidering the article and that it would be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I don’t think this is the way this board should do business,” he said. “I think everything should be out in the open.”
Smart said she had gotten in touch with Kurtz to inform him of her intentions. She said she discussed the idea of revisiting the question with Chairman Raymond Glover after the last vote because she was worried that the current sweeper presents a safety issue. Smart said she spoke with Lloyd “Skip” Herrick about reconsidering the purchase as well.
“I thought, honest to God, that I had followed the procedure the way I was supposed to,” she said.
Town attorney Geoffrey Hole said a quorum of three selectmen cannot form a consensus outside of a public meeting, but that two selectmen are allowed to speak with one another. Kurtz said he felt the matter was an ethical one, and suggested that the board should not do anything in private.
Herrick, who opposed the sweeper purchase along with Kurtz last week, said he was willing to reconsider the question because he had been unaware of safety issues with the sweeper during the last discussion. Highway Department foreman Frank Danforth said there are health concerns due to holes in the cab, which allow dust to enter. He said the operator had to wear a dust mask while using the machine last year.
“It’s just not airtight anymore,” Danforth said.
Kurtz said the street sweeping season only lasts about three weeks, and that it would be unwise to purchase a new sweeper during this time. He also said no cost estimate had been given about contracting out the sweeping duties, and that it could be cheaper to repair the sweeper and discuss the purchase of another one later in the year.
“That’s a big piece of money, and we have to be very careful as to how we spend $46,000,” he said.
Town Manger Philip Tarr said the FEMA funds can be freely spent on highway and road reconstruction expenses. He said the town has used the current sweeper for about 20 years, and that it is starting to wear out.
“This is something that really cannot wait,” Tarr said. “And sometimes you have to buy things midterm, and fortunately you have the money to do it.”