New Milford tree warden defends disputed contracts
Updated 3:53 pm, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
NEW MILFORD — The town’s tree warden has come to the defense of the company Mayor David Gronbach has criticized for billing thousands of dollars more than it bid in each of the last several years.
Tree Warden Carlos Caridad told the Town Council on Monday he was upset by Facebook posts and phone calls he received, critcizing him and the Public Works Department for “perceived improprieties” with tree work contracts.
Gronbach explained earlier this month that he did not award Gentile Tree Care a contract for 2016 due to “discrepancies” in the company’s invoices.
Gronbach and the Purchasing Authority awarded the 2016 contract to the second-lowest bidder, Emmons Tree Service, after the mayor discovered Gentile had been paid tens of thousands of dollars more each year since 2011 than the company bid for the work.
“It was never intended that the bid amount was to reflect the amount of tree work that would be done,” Caridad said.
He said the bid is used to make a “projection” of what the actual work would cost.
“If the town were to bid out a fuel contract, it would look for the price per gallon for which type of fuel and then gallons needed,” Caridad told the Town Council. “Tree work contracts are awarded the same way. Over the years, we have had very competent contractors for the town.”
Caridad said he and the mayor have discussed ways to improve the process to award contracts in an effort to control costs.
“I’m looking at what was paid and what was bid,” Gronbach said. “If you look at the detailed bids (from Gentile and Emmons), they are basically the same. It is a judgment call to go with Emmons in the best interest of the town.”
Gronbach said some of the discrepancies between Gentile’s bids over the years and billed amounts can be attributed to emergency work following large storms, but there was not enough detail in the documentation to determine the scope of the rest of the work.
The mayor said the town bears some responsibility for not requiring this information to be included, but also said it would be in New Milford’s best interest to start fresh with Emmons.
Gentile was awarded the contract in 2011 when it bid $43,325, but the company was actually paid more than $175,000. The company bid the same amount in 2012 and 2013, but the town paid $151,000 and $143,000, respectively, in those years.
Gentile was again awarded the bid in 2014 and 2015 for $58,740 each year. However, the town paid $124,000 in 2014 and $130,000 last year.
Attorney Neil Marcus, representing Gentile, has urged the Town Council to reconsider their decision, and to at least rebid the contract. Marcus said his review of the bills showed his client performed extra work outside of the bid contract at the request of the town, but had charged the same rate.