RUMFORD — After fielding an update Thursday night on this past winter’s harvest of 552 gross cords of wood from a town lot, selectmen voted unanimously to start another harvest and plan for a third on different lots.

The board also awarded a gravel and winter sand bid to Knox Loam and Gravel of Rumford, but not without touching off a discussion about past board practices not to go with the lowest bidder.

Town forester Brian Milligan said the winter timber harvest by Kenrick’s Logging got off to a slow start due to the mild winter and lack of snow. Additionally, a “very early” mud season hampered efforts to finish the work, he said.

He said the operation began on time, but didn’t achieve full production for the first two weeks due to weather limitations.

Then, near the end of February when the lack of snow prompted concerns for an early mud season, Kenrick’s added a second crew to boost production and try to finish the job, Milligan said.

They completed 95 percent of the job, before “extremely warm weather set in, halting the operation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, when spring came, it came with a vengeance,” Milligan said.

The harvesting is done, but the ground became too wet to haul out the remaining one-and-a-half truckloads of wood, he said.

Once it dries enough, that work will be completed and skid trails and landings closed out.

The operation’s main focus was to cut poor-formed and unhealthy trees while leaving the quality wood to grow, Milligan said.

Not counting the remaining 30 tons of wood to be hauled out, 509 cords, or 1,300 tons of pulpwood, were removed and 43 cords of logs, he said.

The board then gave Milligan authority to start the process to harvest wood from the 64-acre South Rumford lot, which is marked for about 45 percent harvest removal, or 900 cords with a preliminary estimated value of $26,000.

Milligan said he would plan for harvest during winter 2013 and use existing lots at the Business Park as a landing area if they’re not sold.

The board also authorized him to begin planning the harvest on the Town Farm lot, which will require more preliminary work. Milligan said it’s “fairly complicated” and will require a short access road and bridge.

In other business, four contractors sent bids for gravel, sand, loam, stone and winter sand for 2012.

Steve Swasey Excavation of Andover came in with the highest bid at $74,650. That was followed by Knox of Rumford with $69,350, R.A. Tibbetts Trucking of Oxford with $68,450, and Archie’s Inc. of Mexico with $68,050.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia recommended going with Archie’s, but Selectman Jeremy Volkernick motioned to go with Kevin Knox.

Following a second, Selectman Jolene Lovejoy asked why they weren’t going with Archie’s bid.

Selectman Brad Adley said it was because Knox registers his trucks in Rumford and lives in Rumford.

“Three of these (bidders) are within the River Valley area,” Lovejoy said. “So I guess the low bid is the low bid unless somebody has their trucks registered in Rumford?”

Puiia said jobs are put out to bid to get the lowest price, but it’s the Board of Selectmen’s choice to pick which they want to approve.

Volkernick then said he had previously raised the same questions that Lovejoy was asking, only to be told that in the past the board’s practice was not necessarily choosing the lowest bids.

“We received bids, two of them for $68,000-plus, and we’re going to forget them and go with the third price of $69,000?” Lovejoy asked. “This doesn’t make sense to me when you all sit around all the time and talk about saving money.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Chairman Greg Buccina said.

When resident Kevin Saisi asked if Rumford has a written purchasing policy, Puiia said it does, but it only guides the process if bids exceed a certain value.

Buccina then asked Puiia to add an item to a future agenda to address the bidding process.

The board then voted 4-1 to approve Knox’s bid, with Lovejoy dissenting.

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