16, 2003 - NORTH ADAMS -- North Adams Mayor John Barrett III
alleged Friday that a conspiracy was orchestrated by Robert
Peirent of Tighe Bond Consulting Engineers, Hoosac Water Quality
District Chief Operator Ridielto Nodal and Williamstown's water
district commissioners to block privatization of the waste-water
"Nodal wants to maintain the status quo,
Tighe Bond wants to keep its cash cow, and Williamstown bought
it hook, line and sinker," Barrett said.
Peirent and Nodal, spoken with separately
Friday, said there was "absolutely no truth" to
Deadlocked commission vote
A Thursday night vote by HWQD commissioners
over whether to privatize the waste-water plant resulted in
deadlock -- Commissioners Ronald Boucher and John Moresi of
North Adams voted for a private operator and Williamstown's
commissioners, K. Elaine Neely and William Fox, voted against
The Contract Operations Proposal Evaluation
Committee -- composed of the district commissioners as well as
North Adams City Administrative Officer Mary Katherine Eade and
Williamstown Department of Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser,
and Nodal -- was also deadlocked when it voted on whether to
accept either of the requests for proposals (RFP) submitted by
U.S. Filter Services Inc. and Aquarian Services Co.
Nodal abstained from the vote.
The committee was formed to review the
contract operations proposals submitted and to make a
recommendation to the commissioners.
Barrett and Town Manager Peter Fohlin stood by
the officials representing their communities when interviewed
Friday via telephone.
Barrett said Boucher, Moresi and Eade reviewed
the RFPs from U.S. Filter and Aquarian, and found that
privatization would result in "hundreds of thousands of
dollars" worth of savings over the course of a 10- or
"Maybe I am naive, but I always feel that
people will do what is best for their constituents,"
Barrett said. "Williamstown sold out their constituents
basically to placate a few."
Fohlin said Neely, Fox and Kaiser found no
cost savings for rate-payers if the district entered into
contracts proposed by either company.
"The facts in the proposal support the
votes of Neely, Fox and Kaiser against privatization. If that
were not the case, the proponents of privatization would be
arguing the facts, instead of the politics."
He later added, "I only judge the facts,
and the fact is the proposals were not in the best interest of
Nodal said Aquarian and U.S. Filter both
submitted several contract options for the committee to review
and for commissioners to vote on. None of the options presented
would save the district money, according to Nodal.
"Williamstown always had an open mind
North Adams never considered anything else. Had there been
$100,000 to $200,000 savings, we would be going with contract
operations," Nodal said.
It costs just under $1 million to run the
water quality district annually, Nodal said. But every contract
option presented in the RFPs were at or in excess of $1 million.
Nodal said it was initially thought one of the
contract options from U.S. Filter would save the district at
least $2 million over 20 years. However, he said that plan did
not include the approximately $140,000 it would cost the
district annually to pay for fixed costs -- including capital
expenses, employee insurance and retiree benefits.
"The mayor is just grasping at
straws," Nodal said. "I'd rather stick with the facts.
The facts are here. Everything is public now and if anyone --
the state, the public -- wants to come and look at the numbers
we have it all here."
Barrett also alleged that Fohlin told
representatives from U.S. Water, another private firm, in April
that the vote on privatization would be deadlocked.
"I made a comment specifically intended
to test the credibility of their promise of
confidentiality," Fohlin said. "I guess now we all
know what I had suspected. I also told them that [Howard] Dean
will beat [John] Kerry in N.H., and that Bush will win the
presidential election. So what? Do I win a prize?"
Fohlin said he never ruled out privatization
"I, like the mayor, was a proponent of
exploring contract operations when the plant was operating in
violation of environmental laws at unnecessary costs to both
communities," Fohlin said. "But the recent performance
of the plant, compared to the total inadequacies of both
proposals, leads me to conclude that these two proposals are not
in the best interest of the communities."
Barrett said Nodal and Tighe Bond Vice
President Robert Peirent met to discuss ways to block the
privatization effort. He also said Peirent provided Nodal with
derogatory information about the private companies interested in
taking over operations, which Nodal later distributed in e-mails
and letters to various people, in order to poison people against
Nodal and Peirent said those statements were
During fiscal 2001, Tighe Bond was paid
$400,000 for its services to the district. And Barrett said the
engineering firm would have lost a client had the district voted
to privatize operations.
In addition, Barrett said Tighe Bond submitted
a $7.2 million capital improvement plan to the district.
However, when a capital plan was submitted to the Department of
Environmental Protection in August, it had been reduced to
between $3 million and $4 million because private firms had
introduced less-expensive plans in their proposals.
"The rate-payers would have had to pay $3
to $4 million more if there had not been talk of
privatization," Barrett said.
But Peirent said his firm would have a client
regardless of whether the district is a private or publicly run
Peirent said Tighe Bond was asked by North
Adams Commissioner Ronald Boucher to be technical adviser in
regard to looking at privatization.
As such, he said Tighe Bond drafted technical
improvement plans for the district, to be made over the next 20
years, not all of which need to be completed immediately.
Peirent estimated the short-term improvements,
required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's consent
decree, to cost about $4 million. And he said other long-term
improvements are estimated to cost a total of about $7 million.
In addition, Peirent said any capital
improvements would not be taken on by a private operator, but
would remain the responsibility of the district.
"We did not see contract operations
changing our relationship with the district," he said.
Barrett said he became aware of this
information about two weeks ago.
"I've never seen anything like this in my
30 years in politics," Barrett said. "It was a dead
deal from day one. To waste that kind of money [$10,000 on the
privatization RFPs], to waste that kind of time
"I haven't talked to the [North Adams]
commissioners yet, but I can assure you we will take some
action," Barrett said. "They have won the battle, but
they are not going to win the war."
Neely and Fox did not return phone calls