ROCKPORT — On June 10, members of the Rockport Select Board voted unanimously that town manager Rick Bates sign a contract engaging Mary Beth Van Keuren as owner’s representative to oversee the construction of the new Rockport Public Library. Also at the meeting the board discussed renewing the town’s emergency medical contract with North East Mobile Health Services; the town’s current EMS contract with NEMHS is set to expire on June 30.
New owner’s rep
Mary Beth Van Keuren is an independent structural engineer who currently serves as owner’s rep on the Camden-Rockport Middle School. She replaces Phi Builders on the library project, after the company moved from owner’s rep to the new building’s contractor in late April.
Board member Debra Hall said June 10 that the original contract drafted for the position when Phi was chosen as owner’s rep had been pared-down, dividing responsibilities for the project between Van Keuren and outgoing town manager Rick Bates; Bates will retire from his role as manager later this month but will continue to work for the town as a consultant on the library project, as well as aid in efforts to equip the town with broadband internet, if a contract with him is approved.
Hall presented a final version of the Van Keuren contract to the board, which had been vetted by the town’s attorney.
“I think it’s a good agreement now that’s very workable. Mary Beth is a very accommodating person and I think she’ll do a great job for us,” said Bates.
Bates estimates that Van Keuren will work seven to 10 hours per week overseeing the library project, while spending 15 hours per week at the middle school. Bates said Van Keuren will be paid $75 per hour a period for 60 weeks, not to exceed $45,000 in total. He said that Van Keuren was one of two candidates interviewed for the position, and that she initially applied to serve as owner’s rep at the time that Phi was selected for the job two years ago.
According to Bates, the amount allocated in the town budget for his position as library/broadband consultant is $35,000. The board was scheduled to sign this contract at the June 10 meeting, but having only received a copy of the hours before, Chairman Ken McKinley recommended the contract be signed at the board’s next meeting.
“Rick is going to be our library consultant – we know that, we know what the major terms are – it’s just a matter of getting the lawyers all on the same page,” said McKinley.
EMS contract with North East Mobile Health
On May 28, members of the Rockport Select Board authorized Town Manager Rick Bates to sign an agreement with North East Mobile Health Services (NEMHS) to provide emergency medical service to the town from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. However at their June 10 meeting, Bates reported that NEMHS CEO Butch Russell was not willing to sign the agreement as presented.
In their initial agreement, the board had added a provision that they would notify NEMHS of their intent to renew the contract for the following year by Jan. 15, 2020.
Bates said he was optimistic that further negotiations with Russell would lead to a new agreement being presented to the board at their next scheduled meeting on June 24. Bates referred the board to two portions of the existing agreement which said were concerning: a joint select board meeting between NEMHS and the towns of Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope, and a ballot referendum question. He added that Russell was seeking a provision in the contract which would seek “liquidated damages.”
“I’ve said over and over again that even if we wanted to do those two things, those are not in the best interest of the town....[Russell] wanted to have a provision in the contract that required all four towns be bound together, and he doesn’t understand that we can’t do that without going to Town Meeting,” said Bates.
Bates said he had discussed the contract in depth with Camden’s town manager, Audra Caler-Bell, and had that impression that Russell was reluctant to sign the agreement without a liquidated damages provision in the event that Camden decided at a later date to break their contract with NEMHS without cause. He said Camden may be willing to accept such a provision, in which case the other three towns would be required to do the same.
“Is [Russell] talking about us abandoning a contract in the middle of a contract period? That’s just not going to happen,” said McKinley.
“The fear is that if Camden pulled out [of the contract] and decided to go with an alternative, [NEMHS] would still be obligated by contract to serve the other three towns, and there may not be enough to make it financially work the way it’s worded – [Russell] would be in a tough spot,” said Bates.
Asked by Selectman Jeff Hamilton would would happen if an agreement had not been reached by June 30, when the current EMS contract expires, Bates said NEMHS would be obligated to provide service to the town for an interim period of 30 days. Bates said the next step in the process would be the town managers of the four towns involved meeting with Russell and “hammering out details” so that an agreement could be presented to the respective select boards before the end of July.
Chairman Ken McKinley thanked for service to town
The Monday night meeting also saw outgoing Selectman and acting Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley thanked by his peers for his service to the town of Rockport and his roles as a leader. McKinley was presented a symbolic brick from the new Rockport Public Library which was engraved with his name and that of his wife, Susan.
“We would like to thank you for your over seven years of service to Rockport on the Select Board – over two years as vice chair, over two years as chair. You were active on the Cemetery Committee, Legacy Rockport, Ordinance Review Committee, Planning Board of Appeals and the Ambulance Committee. Did we forget one?” asked Hall.
“The Pathways Committee,” said McKinley, with a laugh.
“And he was very active in the library planning process,” said Selectman Doug Cole.
“After working with you for the last six years, I want to let you know how much I appreciate your calm, analytical process - the way you approach problems, and your demeanor has been very helpful in guiding the town. Thank you very much, Ken,” said Bates, and McKinley received a round of applause from the board.