BETHEL – After about 90 minutes of discussion Thursday morning among Bethel, Hanover and Newry officials regarding solid waste removal issues, Bethel Town Manager Scott Cole was told to secure contract details.

Then, a decision will be made regarding which trash hauler to hire. Or, maybe not.

All three towns are using a verbally agreed upon $92 a ton with Pine Tree Waste of Scarborough for solid waste disposal from the shared transfer station at Bethel and curbside locations, Cole told members of the Tri-Town Transfer Station Committee and two Bethel selectmen.

That was Pine Tree’s fourth and final bid during what the Hanover and Newry representatives argued was a corrupted bidding process.

Newry Selectman Steve Wight and Bethel representative Scott Hynek argued that Archie’s Inc. of Mexico had the lowest bid out of eight. Both said Bethel selectmen allowed Pine Tree to submit four additional bids until it came in below Archie’s bid.

“The bidding was handled in a highly improper manner and is open to suit if anyone wanted to sue,” an upset Wight said, chastising Cole and Bethel Selectmen Chairman Stan Howe.

“Do you stand behind the bid process?” Wight asked Howe.

“I don’t stand behind it, but I think the way it evolved, and I think you’ve got to realize, there were a lot of things happening at the one time in a short time,” Howe said.

“The bid process worked fine,” Cole said.

“No, it didn’t. You didn’t allow other people to come back and change their bids,” Wight said.

“The town of Bethel selectmen never strayed from going with the low bid until the petition forced the answer,” Cole said in reference to a petition Hynek filed that directed Bethel selectmen to award the solid waste contract to Archie’s.

Town meeting voters on June 11 defeated that article 83-29, sending it back to selectmen to resolve.

After more arguing, Howe’s attempt at reason was rebuffed.

“All the history is passed. Let’s see what we can do now,” he said. “Democracy is a very messy process. It’s a convoluted process.”

“You had eight bidders and you allowed one bidder to bid four times. Is that democracy by your standards?” Wight asked.

Arguments ensued.

“Let’s not blame it on the petition. The petition gets credit for saving the towns 11 percent even though the town didn’t want to save that money, that town being Bethel,” Wight said.

Hynek then tried to set the record straight, saying Pine Tree dropped its bid to $102 a ton before Archie’s changed its bid.

“Second of all,” he continued, “it’s one thing to drop your bids to make your position more competitive after the bids are in. That is clearly unethical. But changing your bid to make your position less competitive, which is what Archie’s did, that is acceptable.”

“Where we had a bidding process and they voted on a low bidder, we should honor the low bidder,” Hanover representative Bob Fortin said. “There should be no argument about this.”

Fortin objected to Bethel controlling everything and Hanover and Newry having no say in the matter.

“If we’re going to have a three-town outfit, the three towns ought to have a say, and not just one,” Fortin added.

After more discussion and accusations, and all but Cole, Howe and Selectman Don Bennett had left, the three agreed with Fortin. They said that while they want to work with both towns, they also have to stay true to their constituents.

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