Monday, July 16, 2012
by Christine Yeres
Board of ed members decided in their meeting last Wednesday to solicit requests for proposals from engineering firms to subdivide the district’s 20-acre Zauderer property, a wooded area situated around Garey Drive and Buttonhook Road. The purpose of the subdivision is to increase the property’s market value before attempting to sell it for development.
See “Board of Ed considers sale of one of its properties,” NCNOW.org, 8/27/10
The board first publicly considered selling the property in August of 2009, when its full market value, according to town tax records, was around $704,000. One year later the board undertook a study with Campbell Engineering to learn how many plots and how much money the property might yield. And last Wednesday, board members reviewed a proposed contract with Campbell that spelled out what needs to be done and how much it will cost to subdivide.
The work involves a baseline survey, mapping of septic systems, health-related soil percolation tests, stormwater plans, tree locations, and squiring an application through the subdivision process with Westchester County and, finally, with New Castle’s planning board. Campbell’s contract put the cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
Board members’ discussion centered on whether to issue a “request for proposal” to receive estimates from other engineering firms. Assistant Superintendent for Business John Chow noted that although the district ordinarily requires RFPs for professional services whose costs exceed $40,000, there was a case to be made that Campbell’s services are “unique,” that is, there are no other firms that can render the same service.
“Usually,” Chow explained to board members, “when it’s a sole provider, we don’t have to do an RFP.” On the other hand, he said, “it’s good practice that we see if we can get proposals from some other folks.” Several board members recognized that Campbell has local and historical knowledge that may be hard to find in another firm. On the other hand, board Vice-President Alyson Kiesel, asked, “Is Campbell a ‘sole provider’ because we haven’t asked anyone else?” She noted that the cost of Campbell’s services was big enough to warrant soliciting other proposals.
Board member Randy Katchis, whose has expertise in real estate matters, suggested that the board had a fiduciary responsibility to seek other proposals, if only to ensure “that the price [from Campbell] is accurate.” Katchis explained that calling for other RFPs does not preclude accepting Campbell’s proposal for the job if there is a strategic advantage to using him. The district is not required to choose the lowest bidder, but instead exercises its discretion in deciding to whom to award the contract.
“And there’s some rocky terrain” at Zauderer, Katchis noted, “so it could be an even bigger [dollar] number.”
The board withdrew the motion to approve the contract and will send out requests for proposals.
Copyright 2013 NewCastleNOW.org