By JOHN HOWELL There was a time when a handshake sealed a deal. That doesn't work for city work. But when a company wins a contract, is a company obligated to obtain a PO, or purchase order, for work not spelled out in the agreement when the city says to
There was a time when a handshake sealed a deal.
That doesn’t work for city work. But when a company wins a contract, is a company obligated to obtain a PO, or purchase order, for work not spelled out in the agreement when the city says to go ahead and do the work?
That was the issue before the City Council Finance Committee when it debated whether it should grant approval of a $25,500 invoice from Cam HVAC and Construction for the installation of two heating and cooling systems at police headquarters. The work was completed as specified and an invoice was submitted more than two years ago. The bill has not been paid.
It’s not the only unpaid bill from the prior administration. On two occasions, the city contacted ESI, Environmental Systems Inc., the approved contractor to do work at the Thayer and Warburton arenas to evaluate equipment and assess what work needed to be done. The city was sent invoices of $1,000 and $700 for the assessments that took upwards of a day to complete, according to Eric Earls, director of public works. Neither of those bills has been paid either.
But while approved city contractors, neither obtained a PO before rendering the service.
The committee agreed that contractors should require POs but couldn’t decide on whether it should approve payment of the invoices. Earls said he checked with City Finance Director Peder Schaefer, who confirmed that the payments could be paid out of a building maintenance bond, meaning the payments would not impact current operating budgets. The committee asked Schaefer to weigh in on the issue of the absence of POs. He said if the committee is intent on sending a message to contractors, then don’t pay the bills but don’t be surprised to end up in court.
The committee withheld action until the next meeting.
Earls said there is more at stake than setting rules.
In an interview, he pointed out the city has had a good relationship with both contractors. They are there when needed and they do the work. He is concerned that ESI that historically has done work at the rinks and understands the systems did not submit a bid when it came up for renewal. That’s especially troubling, since it appears substantial maintenance work at the rinks is needed.
The invoices are two of many under review.
When the issue was brought up a week ago Tuesday, Mayor Frank Picozzi pointed to a stack of manila envelopes on his office conference table. They contain 91 invoices incurred between the pandemic shutdown last March and the end of the year. They were paid under provision 33, which allows the mayor to circumvent bidding protocols and council approval in emergencies. Picozzi isn’t questioning if the work was done or was needed. He points out former Mayor Joseph Solomon had no choice but to use emergency measures since the council was not meeting.
As for the matter of the missing POs for work requested and completed, Picozzi said, “I think they should be paid. Everything was done by the book.”