New low bidder discovered, wins oil contract

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BELLOWS FALLS — Armed with new information, the Rockingham Select Board and the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees have changed their minds about what company will provide heating oil to municipal buildings this winter.

Earlier last week, the two boards had awarded both the heating oil contract and the municipal contract for propane to Dead River Company of Brattleboro. But that contract was short-lived, as an email snafu covered up an even lower bid from Irving Oil based in Portsmouth, N.H., according to Town Manager Wendy Harrison and Town Finance Director Shannon Burbela.

Meeting in special session Friday afternoon, the two boards instead agreed to void the Dead River decision and buy the town and village heating oil from Irving, while the Dead River propane contract remained in place. Irving's bid was about 11 cents per gallon lower, Burbela said; based on 25,000 gallons of fuel oil, that's about a $3,000 savings.

She said two bids came in at the same time electronically Tuesday morning, somehow obscuring Irving's bid. The bids were due that day to be awarded later in the day at the special joint meeting. Irving bid $2.235 per gallon of heating fuel, while Dead River was still the low bidder for propane at $1.0533. Dead River had bid $2.3489 per gallon for fuel oil and Irving had bid $1.117 for propane.

Last Tuesday, the two boards had rejected a recommendation by the town's public works director to buy their oil and gas from a local company, even though its bid was slightly higher. Bart Energy of Rockingham had bid $2.45 per gallon for fuel oil and $1.37 for propane. Public Works Director Everett Hammond had recommended the town and village purchase heating fuel and propane from Bart Energy, saying it gave good service and had had been able to rebuild a problem boiler, when the town had found it hard to find someone to do the work. He also noted that its bid was within the 5 percent limit by town and village policy in awarding contracts to local businesses.

Despite Hammond's testimonial, the two boards agreed to go with Dead River and save some money.

When Irving was informed it hadn't gotten the contract, it pointed out it had sent in a bid and its bid was lower than Dead River, Harrison said. She said the town was grateful that Dead River didn't protest the change.

The town hall uses the majority of the fuel oil, or about 13,500 gallons, while the police and fire station building uses 4,500 gallons and the two highway garages — one on Route 103 and the other on Blake Street — each use approximately 3,500 gallons, according to information from Hammond. Propane is used at the Rockingham Recreation Center, the Rockingham Recycling center, the Bellows Falls Waypoint Center, and the Bellows Falls water and wastewater plants and various pump stations.

There was a fourth bidder for the oil contract, Barrows & Fisher, also of Brattleboro. It bid $2.525 per gallon.

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