The DPW in Hampton has engaged, or is in the process of engaging, Wright Pierce Engineering to do a cost study on re-locating new sewer discharge pipes from the marsh. The source of the funding is coming from cobbling together line item areas of the department’s current budget plus the entire $90,000 from a warrant article which was passed in 2013 previously for different purposes.
In addition, no RFQ’s were sought from competitive firms; the contract was awarded by a waiver to the purchasing policy, and was approved by the selectmen (with little to no comments) after very weak rationale was provided by the DPW director. RTOH continues to look for leadership from the selectmen not cheerleading! This entire initiative had no public comment/input just a waiving of the hands by the selectmen! The cost of this routing plan was estimated at approximately $220,000!
We take strong exception to this entire process including taking of money from the 2013 article as we think that the money the warrant article authorized did not include the layout and planning costs of marsh replacement pipes! The article provided funds to review the Waste Water Treatment Plant and any upgrades it may need in its processing of the waste water as a result of any new EPA guidelines. Such guidelines may have required the town to remove any metals (copper, aluminum zinc etc.) from the discharge before it enters the marsh. I know of no new requirements in terms of DES /EPA specifications.
Additionally we question the lack of competitive RFQ’s on this proposed project to engage Wright Pierce. The DPW is seeking a cost estimate for the routing plan of two marsh replacement pipes so that a complete proposal can be put forth to the voters, which would combine the cost of the pipes and the cost of routing them. This approach of spending large amounts of money on design, prior to voter approval of the project, will result in a waste of taxpayer dollars if the voters don’t approve the project in March of 2017.
The problem that was recently experienced is seen, by RTOH’s technical advisors, as an isolated event that was corrected and does not represent a deterioration of the entire system. No facts have been presented to dispute that comment by the town.
We believe that a cost estimate can be obtained for a substantially smaller amount of money and other companies should be solicited for RFP’s. No disrespect to Wright Pierce but there is truly nothing unique about this effort that would exclude other companies. The rationale used by the DPW director was that Wright Pierce’s involvement in the Church Street pump station gives them an insight that would allow them to understand the issue better and would assure compatibility with the equipment in the station. This is hog wash! We are talking about the routing of two pipes primarily (along route 101 and crossing over to Tide Mill Road) with any interface requirements to the Church Street plant included in the bid specifications! The coziness of the Wright Pierce relationship with DPW preempts the assurance that the taxpayer is getting the biggest bang for the buck and one that raises our eyebrows about whether the town manager and selectmen are truly being prudent with public monies!
Fear factors (the beach will shut down) were brought forth initially and that has subsided as a result of criticism and in its place the state of N.H. DES keeps getting mentioned as the big brother who is watching with an implication that Hampton will be heavily fined if this happens again or they are leaning on Hampton to replace these two pipes. Nonsense!
No facts have been presented by either party that would cast these two pipes in poor light. No rock field studies (radar or ultrasonics), no internal camera analysis of the pipes, no soil conditions analysis that would speak to the resistivity of the marsh soils, no attempt to review the oldest pipe in the marsh (concrete imbedded iron, nothing! Just a wringing of the hands, fear and shaking of the heads. Where is the needed competency and solid risk assessment?