By Sara Brown
The City Council wasn’t happy about it but once again approved $11.75 million in loan orders for CDM Smith at the last meeting.
The council approved a loan order in the amount of $1,000,000 for Phase 10 Field Investigations, Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Planning Project No. 4387; a loan order in the amount of $4,700,000 for Phase 9 Construction–Infiltration/Inflow, Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination, Pump Station and Drainage, CWSRF Construction Project No. 4440; a loan order in the amount of $500,000 for the Illicit Connection Detection and Sump Pump Investigations, CWSRF Planning Project No. 4386; a loan order in the amount of $2,000,000 for Illicit Connection & Sump Pump Removal Program, CWSRF Construction Project No. 4439; a loan order in the amount of $550,000 for Planning and Design of Oak Island Water Main Improvements; and a loan order in the amount of $3,000,000 for Oak Island Water Main Improvements, DWSRF Construction Project No. 4405.
Robert Button of CDM Smith appeared before the council to hear the city councillors’ frustrations on why the consulting firm seeks money right before a fiscal year ends.
“I’ve been doing this now for 11 years and it’s the same thing every year. They control, design and oversee it all. The last several years I have been asking for figures of what CDM Smith gets,” said Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch at the June 25 council meeting. “I want to know how much your company is getting for this. Where’s the control and oversight? Nobody is watching you – I never get the information I ask for.”
Patch has been an outspoken critic of the engineering consultants since they were hired to oversee the citywide infrastructure repairs thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice’s consent decree which dates back to former Mayor Thomas Ambrosino’s administration when the City Council agreed to what seems like the inestimable bonding for the infrastructure repairs.
“I think it’s time to put a stop to this,” Patch added. “I’ve said the same thing over and over.”
Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo agreed, saying the city needs to do what is best for the taxpayers. “This is a large amount of money we are talking about here,” Rizzo said.
According to Button of CDM Smith, the city has been in a consent decree for the past 13 years and has spent $35 million on repairs to the water and sewer system. He also said there is oversight to what they do.
“There is a considerable amount of oversight. We have the state and federal government also reviews on us,” said Button.
Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo asked when was the last time CDM Smith was audited.
“City staff, EPA and Massachusetts DEP met in March or April of this year, and every six months we are required to submit a status report,” Button said
While expensive, Button said, the city’s relationship with CDM Smith has improved the city tremendously. “When I started this there were several streets with sewage running down and we have remedied that,” he said.
The council unanimously approved the loan orders.