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Plans stall for maritime center in Scituate

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 8, 2012 03:45 PM

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Scituate officials rejected the Marine and Environmental Education Alliance (MEEA)’s application to a request for proposals for a maritime educational complex on the Driftway, after administrators determined that the application was incomplete.

According to Board of Selectman Chairman Anthony Vegnani, several memo requirements within the application were incomplete. Since there was only one response to the RFP, officials have no choice but to close the request.

“At this point it’s not being considered, and the board will communicate that to the applicant in regards to what the problems were,” Vegnani said. “The board will get together and determine if we want to reissue the RFP again.”

Although the application was not accepted, it does not mean that the town’s views on the project have changed.

“We all support the plan, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we decided to reissue [the request],” Vegnani said.

The request itself has been something opponents, such as the Friends of the Driftway group, have been rallying against in recent weeks.

IDave Berkowitz, a Scituate resident and head of the friends group, raised several concerns in a letter to the state inspector general: that the size of the parcel wasn’t listed property, that the appraised value wasn’t within the RFP (and thus didn’t draw any other interested parties), and that several locals with seats on adjuratory town boards were biased towards the project.

The friends group also said that it could not have access to the application, which should be a public record.

The inspector general said several of the items were minor; however, the town was mandated to make the application available to the public.

According to Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi the RFP response was provided as soon as it was requested.

According to Berkowitz, his group has still more concerns.

“I think one of the other things, and this is my personal concern, is that when the RFP was issued, the wording was to request proposals for a maritime educational institute to be put on town property…the RFP should have said, 'To provide the best use for town own land, submit proposals,' ” Berkowitz said. “What they have already done is said this is the best proposal. They have only received one response to the RFP – it’s a fait accompli.”

If another RFP is issued, Vegnani said it would most likely be for an educational complex at the site.

“I think we'd take anything into account, but we like the idea of an educational facility, and we like the idea that it has a connection to the history of the town. That’s where the maritime facility came to be so likable. That’s the path we’re on right now,” he said.

While town officials decide what to do about the process, for MEEA, the news is tough to take.

“We are very disappointed. We think this is very unfortunate. We put a tremendous amount of work in to [that proposal] for the town,” said Jeff Rosen, the chair of MEEA.

Rosen said the group is still willing to work with the town to move forward with the project in Scituate, but said it isn’t the only possible site if the hurdles become insurmountable in this particular spot.

“There are a number of other communities that are interested, and we would then open dialogue with them. But our intention is to do this in Scituate. It’s unique and is a great place given the proximity to the train, wastewater treatment, solar array, wind turbine and proximity to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Scituate Harbor. It’s a unique place that could be meaningful for our students to learn … and we think it would be a great thing for the town of Scituate,” he said.

“We will start looking on other options. We’re not closing the door, we’re just not sure how we’re going to [move forward],” Rosen said.

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