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Nashua board signs off on track repairs

NASHUA - The Board of Education approved roughly $1.2 million for track repairs at both high schools and two middle schools Wednesday night, despite concern among some board members that Pandora's box was being opened due to how the bidding process was handled.

While board members agreed that the work has to be done, some members, including Dennis Ryder and Sandra Ziehm, said running the bidding process through a consortium instead of handling the process in house could set a dangerous precedent.

"I think we are opening Pandora's box here," Ryder said, adding that by the district not conducting its own bidding process, too much faith is being put in a process the district has no control over.

District Chief Operating Officer Daniel Donovan said that by going through a consortium, in this case the Keystone Purchasing Network, the district is allowing an outside agency to conduct the bidding process. By doing it that way, the district only knows who won the bid, not who else bid.

Ryder said that without knowing who else bid on the project, they are not ensuring the lowest price possible, making it a pseudo-bidding process, a sentiment that was backed up by Ziehm.

Donovan said Ryder's opinion was valid but misguided.

"If we were to bid as much as he would like us to, that would take a full time bidding agent, which would cost a lot of money," Donovan said.

The district does not have even a part-time bidding agent, so different bids are handled by different members of the administration. With the track repairs time sensitive and scheduled for this summer, Superintendent Mark Conrad said the consortium process should allow the district to finish the work by the start of the next school year.

Donovan added that Ryder's belief that going through a consortium is not a true bidding process as "misguided."

He said that although Keystone ran the bidding process, they must still operate under rules set forth by the districts and municipalities that utilize it.

With tracks at North and South high schools, and Pennichuck and Fairground middle schools quickly deteriorating, the board initially hired an architectural firm to address the situation. The firm's initial estimate was that repairs would total more than $1.5 million.

Donovan said the board then approved repairs totaling $1,245,000, and then received a bid through Keystone for the work to be done at a cost of $1,172,000. The fact that Keystone procured a bid less than the estimate is proof that the process works Donovan said.

However, Donovan said that going through a consortium to procure bids will not be a common occurrence.

"We will still run most of our own bids," he added.

Despite the debate between board members over the process, the bid was approved.

Donovan said the materials will be purchased through Field Turf and installed by Cape and Island Tennis and Track of Massachusetts, which he said is one of only two companies in New England that can do that kind of work.

"Some things we should bid ourselves, but in this instance it would have cost us more time and money," Donovan said.


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