‘It’s a Lot of Money’: Devereaux Calls for Public Bidding for Future ‘Spring Cleanup’ Work


The area outside the northern entrance to Town Hall. Credit: Michael Dinan

Saying a price tag of more than $15,000 seemed high, Selectman Kit Devereaux called for the town to consolidate and bid out spring cleanup work around several public buildings.

The Board of Selectmen at its most recent meeting reviewed five separate contracts with New Canaan-based Gregg’s Garden Center & Landscaping LLC, for grounds work at Town Hall ($4,380), Irwin Park ($2,420), Lapham Center ($3,900), the Powerhouse ($3,780) and Saxe Middle School ($960).

Under the Town Code, the Board of Selectmen itself may approve contracts whose value is less than $5,000 and there’s no requirement that such projects go out to bid (see 77-2). 

Devereaux asked why the work done by Gregg’s, which totals $15,440, didn’t come under one single contract.

Public Works Director Tiger Mann said the town has split the contracts up in the past “to see whether or not we would save money by going to different contractors in different locations.”

“That was the that was way it was originally bid back when we first started spring cleanup,” Mann said during the selectmen meeting, held April 23 at Town Hall.

Gregg’s was always the low bidder at that time, Mann said, “and they fit within our timeframe, which was the biggest thing, the portion that we need is to have them come out at a specific time. In the future we can look to bid it out as a whole project, but we looked it and each time Gregg’s was the low.”

Devereaux also asked Mann why the Town Hall grounds figure appeared relatively large (because that includes Vine Cottage as well as the former Outback Teen Center area), why it was higher than the Irwin Park cost (because that’s basically weeding and working in the vicinity of Irwin House itself, not the whole park) and whether the work amounted to spring cleanup work along (it’s a mulch application and mostly weeding and sprucing up).

Mann said the spring cleanup program has been “expanding each year” so the cost “has been getting larger and larger.” About two-thirds of the money goes toward materials, including a high-quality, lasting mulch, he said.

In the past, the town only had funding for Lapham Community Center and other locations, he said. “So we can certainly look, now that it’s expanding, look at it as an entirety and see if we can get someone else in but Gregg’s has been very responsive and the low bid.”

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan asked Mann whether Gregg’s was local (yes, the company works out of the Weed & Duryea area). Moynihan also noted that the cleanup “is literally nice-to-do cleanup because otherwise it hasn’t happened.”

Mann said town workers “would not be able to do it.”

“I was talking to [Parks Superintendent] John [Howe] about it yesterday and the fact baseball is hopping now and soccer is hopping and it’s raining all the time, we would not be able to get to this, this type of work,” Mann said. 

Devereaux said, “To me, it’s a lot of money.” She added that it appeared to be “too much money” and that it would be “great next year to look at it.”

The Parks & Recreation Commission in its spending requests has prioritized the cleanup funds as “a very, very important thing for them to make sure everything looks great now and beautiful, but now that it has gotten to this level we can bid it out and see if there is a savings somewhere,” Mann said.

The Saxe line item refers to areas around the building itself and parking areas, Mann said.

Selectman Nick Williams said he recalled when the work wasn’t done and those entering New Canaan from the Merritt Parkway would pass the grounds on South Avenue “and everything is overgrown.”
Devereaux said she thought the work was “a wonderful thing” but could be done “more efficiently.”

The selectmen voted 3-0 to approve the series of contracts for this year.

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