AMHERST - Two more pieces of Amherst's strategic priorities are set to move forward after the town awarded contracts to consultants to study downtown revitalization and creating an arts, culture and heritage strategy.
Darmouth-based Ekistics Planning and Design was awarded the contract for the completion of the Centre First-Downtown Amherst Action Strategy for its quoted prices of $91,965 while DmA was given the contract, valued at $49,991, for the completion of the Arts Culture and Heritage Strategy.
Both contracts were awarded during a special meeting of Amherst town council on Monday.
The Ekistics bid beat out three other proposals including The Terrain Group ($97,694), Michael von Hausen ($99,998) and The Planning Partnership ($80,156).
"Ekistics was clearly superior to the other proposals, specifically regarding their past experience in similar markets, urban design and project management," Coun. Dave March said.
ACOA, the province and the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society are providing up to $80,000 in funding while the town has committed up to $20,000 for the study.
While the Ekistics bid was not the lowest, March said it was selected because of the company's track record and unlike the tendering process for road construction or other capital projects, the town is not required to hire the lowest bidder.
"You don't have to have the lowest bid because these are proposals for a strategy as opposed to paving a street," March said.
Marsh said planning staff analyzed each of the proposals and felt most comfortable with Ekistics and its track record of projects around the region as well as internationally.
The low bidder, he said, provided very little detail overall and did not comment on a number of project objectives.
Meanwhile, DmA Planning and Management Services beat out two other bids from St. Clements Group ($49,946) and Webb Management Services (US $38,000) to complete the arts and culture strategy.
Coun Dale Fawthrop said one of the bidders - Webb Management - only submitted based on the arts centre component of the strategy while the other two groups did not bid on that component. He said it's something the town can complete a feasibility study for later.
"DmA has an office in Wolfville and they've done a lot of work throughout the Maritimes," Fawthrop said. "We've had the pleasure of working with them before."
Fawthrop said the study will look at the arts and culture aspects of Amherst and what is needed to help that sector of the community take advantage of tourism and economic development opportunities.
"Once this study is completed, I see the arts and culture strategy going hand and hand with downtown redevelopment," he said. "Amherst is a tremendous cultural centre. We have many artists of all different styles be they theatre, rug hookers and painters."