2017-06-09 / Front Page

Board decides who will repair station

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Citing a need to make immediate repairs to the town fire station, damaged May 26 when a vehicle left Limerick Road and crashed into the building, Arundel selectmen have waived a bid rule in the town charter and tapped one of their own for the job.

The board met in a special session June 2 and voted unanimously to hire Selectman Jason Nedeau as general contractor for the project, which is expected to cost between $60,000 and $70,000. Nedeau abstained from the vote.

According to Town Manager Keith Trefethen, although the town will have to foot the repair bill initially, it expects reimbursement from the driver’s insurance company.

That driver, 25-year-old Kastara Ylonen, of Waterboro, lost control of her 2009 Toyota Highlander, while traveling north on Limerick Road. The SUV shot across the fire station lawn at the corner of Limerick and Mountain Road, tore up a shrub, clipped a granite historical society monument, missed the flagpole by inches, and slammed into the corner of the fire station that houses sleeping quarters for fire and rescue personnel.

Because the rescue crew was just returning from a call at the time of the crash, which occurred at about 10:30 p.m., nobody was in the sleeping area. Fire Chief Bruce Mullen could not be reached for comment Monday, but in separate interviews both selectboard chairman Velma Hayes and Town Manager Keith Trefethen said EMTs were in the hallway just outside the bunkroom when the SUV hit.

“It [the SUV] went right though the wall into the first bedroom,” Trefethen said, on Monday. “If anybody had been sleeping in that room, we believe they would have been killed.

“It took the complete wall out and, in fact, the roof trusses were laying on top of the car,” Trefethen said. “There’s an inside, non-load-bearing wall that separates both bedrooms and they [structural engineers] felt that by that being there, that helped prevent the remaining trusses from failing.”

“It was a frightening scenario, not just for our firemen but, I’m sure for the young lady involved, as well,” Hayes said. “The impact literally moved that whole part of the building. All the windows on that side, as well as the front door, are now wedged shut from the force of it. They can’t be opened.”

Still, the building, as a whole, has been declared sound by a pair of inspectors from Bangor-based engineering firm Woodard & Curran, Trefethen said.

According to York County Sheriff William King, Ylonen “was extricated from the vehicle” and taken to Southern Maine Healthcare in Biddeford “for evaluation.” On Monday, King said via email that he did not know the extent of Ylonen’s injuries, if any, or when she was discharged.

She was summonsed for operating under the influence and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in the Biddeford District Court on July 19.

King said the OUI charge was based on the observations of deputies on the scene and a breathalyzer test was not administered, due to the more immediate concern of getting Ylonen to a hospital to be checked out.

“No test was given, according to the crash report,” he wrote. “I assume we will subpoena the hospital for her blood [-alcohol level].”

King said the cause of the crash has been chalked up to impaired driving. It was not determined exactly how fast Ylonen was travelling when her vehicle left the road.

“No other reason [for the accident] was given on the crash report,” he wrote.

Trefethen said Nedeau, who also serves on Arundel’s volunteer fire department, made some immediate repairs on the evening of the crash. He accepted no compensation at that time, other than “about $260” for wood and other materials pulled off another job and used to help shore up the building and put in a temporary wall.

“He did a lot of work and we really appreciated it,” Hayes said.

Since the crash, the hole in the fire station wall has been covered from the outside with a heavy, yellow tarp. Trefethen said the building is not 100 percent secure, but per-deim EMTs are in the building at almost all times, “except when out on a call.”

Trefethen said an independent insurance adjuster will be brought in to give a second opinion on the initial cost estimate for repairs provided by Woodard & Curran.

“Everything that gets done will be double and triple checked,” Hayes said, noting the potential for a perceived conflict of interest in hiring Nedeau to do the work. “Jason knows that his work and that of his people will get more scrutiny than probably if we had gone out and hired another contractor. But the reason we did this is because of the timeframe. We just can’t leave that building the way it is. It’s got to be fixed. Jason does that kind of thing for a living. He’s highly qualified to do this work. And he’s a member of the fire department. So, he knows what we need and he knows all the right people to get the job done right.”

Nedeau did not return calls requesting comment. However, Trefethen and Hayes both said he has indicated the job should be finished within six to eight weeks. By contrast, going through the usual formal bid process to find a contractor would have pushed the start of repair work out at least that far, both said.

“Because he’s a contractor, they [selectmen] felt they wanted to take advantage of that,” Trefethen said. “They clearly identified that some people might think that this is a conflict of interest because he’s a selectman as well. So, they noted the fact that they understood that, but, because it’s an emergency building and it’s exposed to the elements, they felt that they did not want to wait to begin repairs. They wanted to get started as quickly as possible.

“After the vote they went over and toured the facility, spending maybe 35 or 40 minutes, and said they felt even more comfortable with the decision they made,” Trefethen said.

Exactly how much Nedeau will be paid for the job is unclear at this point.

“I believe there is going to be some compensation to him, but not an incredible amount — just for his time to set everything up and hire the electricians and framers and what-not that will be needed,” Trefethen said. “He actually didn’t want any fees, but selectmen felt if he’s going to spend a lot of time there, he ought to have some sort of compensation.”

In one final wrinkle to the June 2 vote to hire Nedeau, selectmen had to look the other way on a provision of the town charter.

The charter compels Trefethen to put any job costing more than $5,000 out to bid. However, Hayes said selectmen elected to waive that requirement, both to expedite the work and because funds for the project will ultimately come from Ylonen’s insurance company.

“Based on advice from the town attorney, because what we are ultimately doing is expending insurance money and not money that is coming from the taxpayer, that requirement does not apply,” she said.

Trefethen acknowledged that decision does come down to a legal interpretation, as the charter does not expressly say selectmen have the power to authorize having him bypass the bid rule.

“The charter does not address it — whether the selectmen can or cannot waive it — it only says that I as town manger have to go out to bid to do a project that costs more than $5,000,” he said.

Still, Hayes said she feels confident selectmen are in the right, as the charter does not envision the need for emergency work of this nature. The bottom line, she said, is, whether the board hired one of its own or waived the bid rule, every dollar will be tracked as part of an open, transparent process.

“This job will be scrutinized as much as anything we have ever done,” she said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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