Plymouth County Administrator Troy Clarkson and county commission Chairman Anthony O’Brien blame Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce officials for spoiling the bid process for the historic courthouse in downtown Plymouth.
Who wants a historic courthouse in the heart of downtown Plymouth? No one, apparently.
Plymouth County commissioners put the vacant building on the market a month ago. Nearly two dozen developers and others picked up bid packages, but no bids were returned by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline, County Administrator Troy Clarkson said.
Clarkson and commission Chairman Anthony O’Brien blame Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce officials for spoiling the bid process by sending a sharply worded letter Friday to Clarkson and town and state officials explaining why the chamber would not be bidding on the project.
Chamber officials said there were too many unknowns and too many vague restrictions in the bid documents.
“It was a business decision, and this was a bad business deal,” chamber member Kevin O’Reilly said.
Chamber officials had concerns about the nonrefundable deposit, limited access to determine structural and environmental problems, nonspecific restrictions on historical preservation and no purchase-and-sale details.
Clarkson said he responded to these concerns earlier this month and heard nothing further.
“If the response was insufficient, they should have come back to us,” Clarkson said.
“The letter was a big surprise,” O’Brien said. “It was a strongly worded letter with an important author and sent to a significant number of important people. The clear intent was to hurt our process. There’s something going on behind the scenes.”
But O’Reilly denied any backroom agenda or political subterfuge.
“When we asked for a purchase-and-sales example, they said, ‘Trust us,’” O’Reilly said. “If they want to blame someone, they should blame the person who drafted the RFP (request for proposals). It was important to tell people why we weren’t bidding. It was an effort to prevent being accused of political maneuvering.”
Clarkson says he will recommend re-bidding the courthouse with no restrictions.
He said he also is open to negotiating with the town should town meeting Saturday approve spending up to $1.4 million of Community Preservation Act money to buy the building.
The commission is selling the vacant courthouse and adjacent office building to help balance the county’s fiscal 2010 budget.
The two buildings were appraised at $1.5 million.
Some of the money would be used to relocate county offices from the building behind the courthouse to county-owned property on Obery Street.
Tamara Race may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.