|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW – The Board of Selectmen recently agreed to hire former Springfield Mayor and current member of the Governor’s Council Michael Albano’s firm as the consultant to perform a study on the economic impact MGM’s proposed Springfield casino would have on the town.
“This is an exciting challenge because of the newness of the legislation and the surrounding community aspect of it,” Albano said. “It’s exciting to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to it.”
Albano, a Longmeadow resident, is the CEO of East Longmeadow-based Albano & Associates Inc., which according to his proposal to the town, specializes in “representation of clients in governmental affairs on the local, state and federal levels.”
Albano’s firm, which will team with local law firm Dunn and Phillips, P.C., on the project, was selected unanimously by the Board of Selectmen from a pool of four candidates who responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ).
At the Special Town Meeting in October, residents approved the allocation of up to $30,000 for the study, which will be reimbursed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and MGM.
Albano’s bid of $10,000 was significantly lower than his competitors. Urban Analytics Inc. of Alexandria, Va., proposed a price of $17,000, while bids from GZA GEO Environmental of Springfield and Center for Government Research in Rochester, N.Y., came in at $21,500 and $29,500, respectively.
Board of Selectmen Chair Paul Federici said Albano’s experience, coupled with his low price point and partnership with Dunn and Phillips factored into the decision.
“There were a number of things we took into consideration. The qualifications were good for all of the companies. Beyond that, you don’t want to waste the taxpayers’ money and through the competitive bidding process, he came in so much lower,” he said. “You want to know that they have enough people behind them to actually do the job.”
The study, which will encompass all aspects of a Springfield gaming facility, excluding traffic, which is being studied by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, must be completed by Nov. 26 with recommendations on what the town should ask for in impact mitigation negotiations.
“The request for qualifications speaks to the issues of public safety, social services, housing, schools and the business community at large,” Albano said. “There’s also public works and the impact it will have on roads, water lines, sewer lines and water usage. There’s a whole gambit of things that will impact East Longmeadow.”
He added that he offered to help the town with its negotiations with MGM for no additional cost, but “we haven’t reached that point yet.”
Albano said he was the best candidate for the job primarily because he has the most experience with municipal government.
“If you look at the competitors, those who made proposals, I’ll match my credentials against anyone,” he said. “I don’t believe anybody has more municipal experience. I served on the [Springfield] School Committee, I served on the City Council, I was mayor for eight years.”
Albano touted his involvement in school building and road projects, as well as his formation of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission as a separate agency, as well as his experience with the development of large economic engines in Springfield such as the MassMutual Center, the Basketball Hall of Fame and the entertainment district.
“You package all that together and, quite frankly, I’m very comfortable providing advice to East Longmeadow,” he said.
Albano said he planned to devote the majority of his time to the study.
“I said in my proposal that I put everything else on hold and I’m going to go to work essentially full time for the town – 30 hours a week for the next three-plus weeks,” he said. “Basically, I’m going to be a full time employee for the town.”
Addressing his low price, he said the fact that he was centrally located and would not have to be compensated for travel and he was not an attorney with set hourly rates were major factors.
He also said his position on the Governor’s Council did not create any conflicts of interests because members are given exemptions and he would not be dealing directly with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“I’m dealing with the Board of Selectmen and potentially MGM, but right now just the Board of Selectmen,” he said.
He added timing would also not be a factor as the council is meeting every two weeks as opposed to every week because of the lack of a lieutenant governor.
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