Selection of an engineering firm to oversee a 37-mile road project in Grand County has drawn fire from critics who say the selection was made hurriedly and without proper competition.

The Grand County Special Services Road District board selected the firm of Creamer & Noble, St. George, to handle the portion of the project that runs from Cisco to the Uintah County border in the Book Cliff Mountains.The Uintah Special Service Road District board is still in the process of selecting its consultant. Creamer & Noble is one of three finalists for the project. The Uintah project involves 66 miles and will run south from Vernal to connect with the Grand County project.

The Grand County board took just seven days to select its consultant, limiting advertising of the project to a single ad in a local weekly newspaper. Critics said this effectively limited applicants to companies with advance knowledge of the project.

By contrast, Uintah has been working through a very structured selection process. Six firms submitted applications and that was narrowed to three finalists. The board is presently scheduling meetings to review the applications and make a final selection.

Selection of Creamer & Noble would likely aid the project development since the same firm would be coordinating efforts in both counties. Uintah officials said that would be nice, but they say a number of other elements, including price and service options, will be considered in the final deliberations.

Ken Sleight, a Grand County resident, accused the local road board of acting improperly. He said the seven-day notice period was inadequate and limiting the scope of advertising unduly restricted the pool of applicants submitting letters of interest. He said the board's decision to negotiate rather than bid the contract also created concern.

District Administrator Jimmie Walker defended the selection saying quick action was needed to get the project moving. He said needed aerial photographs are best taken in early spring after the snow melts but before vegetation starts to thicken. He said advertising was restricted to the local newspaper because the board wants to localize as much of its work as possible and to deal with those firms "that respect the idea of working with local people as much as possible," Walker said.

Representatives of at least two area engineering firms said the one-week application period was simply too short. Two other firms managed to get applications in, but one had to fax its application because of the time restrictions. Board members took just 30 minutes to review the applications and make the selection.

Creamer & Noble has put a lot of work into securing the contract. Over the past six months the company prepared a preliminary layout of the proposed road, said K. Reed Noble, a company principal. The company also took Grand and Uintah county officials on free airplane flights over the proposed project route.