Regulations for Hiring Outside Consultants
As provided by M.G.L. Ch. 44, § 53G, the Needham Conservation Commission may impose and collect reasonable fees for the employment of outside consultants, engaged by the Conservation Commission, for specific expert services deemed necessary by the Commission to adequately review an application submitted to the Conservation Commission pursuant to the requirements of the Wetlands Protection Act (M.G.L. Ch. 131, § 40), the Needham General Wetlands Protection By-Law, Article 6, the Conservation Commission Act (M.G.L. Ch. 40 § 8C) or any other state or municipal statute, ordinance or regulation, as they may be amended or enacted from time to time.
The Conservation Commission will impose a consultant fee on those applications which, as designated by the Conservation Commission, require the services of outside consultants for the review process due to the size, scale, complexity or potential impacts of a proposed project or because the Town lacks the necessary expertise to perform the review work related to the permit or approval. Subject to applicable exemptions, the Conservation Commission shall follow the requirements of the Uniform Procurement Act, M.G.L. Ch. 30B, §4(b), for consultant services more than $4,999.99, but less than $25,000.00 and shall follow the requirements of M.G.L. Ch. 30B, §5, for consultant services more than $25,000.00.
Pursuant to M.G.L. Ch. 44, § 53G, the Conservation Commission, through this regulation, provides for an applicant's payment of the fees for outside consultants as set forth below:
- In hiring outside consultants, the Conservation Commission may engage engineers, planners, traffic consultants, attorneys, housing specialists, financial analysts, and/or other appropriate outside consultants who can assist the Conservation Commission in reviewing and analyzing the proposed project. The minimum qualifications shall consist either of an educational degree in, or related to, the field at issue, professional licensure or three or more years of practice in the field at issue or a related field.
- Funds received by the Conservation Commission pursuant to this regulation shall be deposited with the Town Treasurer who shall establish a special account for this purpose in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 44, Section 53G of the General Laws. Expenditures from this special account may be made at the direction of the Conservation Commission without further appropriation. Expenditures from this special account shall be made only in connection with a specific project or projects for which a consultant fee has been collected from the applicant. Any accrued interest may also be spent for this purpose. At the completion of the Conservation Commission's review of a proposed project, any excess amount in this account, including interest, attributable to a specific project, shall be repaid to the applicant or the applicant's successor in interest. A final report of said account shall be made available to the applicant or the applicant's successor in interest. For the purpose of this regulation, any person or entity claiming to be an applicant's successor in interest shall provide the Conservation Commission with documentation establishing such succession in interest.
- After the applicant has presented his/her project to the Commission at a hearing, the members shall determine whether one or more outside consultants will be necessary in order for the Commission to make a fully informed decision on the application. The Commission shall give written notice to the applicant of the selection of the outside consultant(s), which notice shall state the identity of the consultant(s), the amount of the fee to be charged to the applicant, and a request for payment of said fee in its entirety. Such notice shall be deemed to have been given on the date it is mailed or delivered. No such costs or expenses shall be incurred by the applicant if the application or request is withdrawn within five days of the date notice is given.
- The fee must be received in its entirety prior to the institution of consulting services. The Commission may request additional consultant fees if the necessary review requires a larger expenditure than originally anticipated or new information requires additional consultant services. Failure by the applicant to pay the consultant fee specified by the Commission within ten (10) business days of the request for payment shall be cause for the Commission to deny the application.
- Prior to paying the consultant fee, the applicant may appeal the selection of the outside consultant(s) to the Board of Selectmen. The grounds for such an appeal shall be limited to claims that a selected consultant has a conflict of interest or that a selected consultant fails to possess the minimum required qualifications. The written appeal must be received by the Board of Selectmen within ten (10) days of the date consultant fees were requested by the Conservation Commission. A copy of the appeal shall be simultaneously provided to the Conservation Commission. The time limit for the Conservation Commission's action on the proposed project shall be extended by the duration of any administrative appeal to the Board of Selectmen. In the event that the Board of Selectmen makes no decision regarding the appeal within thirty days following the filing of such appeal, then the selection of the Conservation Commission shall stand.