Construction companies express concern over Fort St. John tendering policies

Photo: Jessica Fedigan

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Some construction companies are not pleased with how the city of Fort St. John is handling tenders to construction companies.

Aaron Henry of Kalmar Construction and Scott Bone with the Northern Regional Construction Association brought to light problems that they currently see with how the city does business with tenders at a city council meeting June 27th.

“I’m hoping that bringing these issues to light, will help the city review its tendering policies and procedures, and be receptive to communication with the contractor and development community at large to hear their concerns.”  said Henry.

The first issue brought to light was the city and the award process that they currently use. Henry mentioned a specific tender that was recently closed and came in significantly over budget. Henry said the concern was not that it was awarded to the lowest bidder, but that they haven’t been involved in many tenders. They pointed out they understand that the city is obligated to accept the lowest bidder but that they negotiated to bring the project within budget after it was awarded. Due to the amount this project came in over budget, it would have been impossible to complete without re-scoping the project.

The city said it was something they would have to do, and due to the re-scoping, Henry says the project should have been re-tendered. But it was not.

They also wanted clarification on site meetings as well as clarification questions for certain projects.

They cited on a recent tender that an addendum was issued which scheduled a site meeting for the project. Henry says it was clearly stated that any late contractors would not be allowed to attend the meeting.

According to Henry, the city representative did not show up. No reason was given and no other representative was sent. Henry also said no questions would be answered before, during, or after the site meeting.

There were also restrictions that nobody could visit the site outside of meeting hours. Henry said he has never seen these restrictions before.

The 3rd area of concern was communication that the city has with bidders is that the the tender that is now closed should have received 4 addendum’s  to it, but only received 3 official. The first 2 by the consultant and the 3rd was not documented at all was then only documented on the day of closing. The 4th was issued an hour after the revised bid closing but contractors did not receive it until after the tender had closed.

City managers have been in contact with Bone and Henry to discuss more details and meeting dates. The meeting scheduled with the manager is scheduled for August 8th 2016.

Scott Bone says that the city is clearly in a legal responsibility to treat all bidders equally in that process. They also legally are required to comply with the tendering practices that they are using, whether implied or expressed.

Mayor Lori Ackerman said council should never be shy about policies. Ackerman said going forward the city will continue dialogue with construction workers.

“We should never by shy about looking at our policies. Whenever legislation requires they be changed, 0r when society requires that they be changed, I think it is important that we step up to the plate and ensure that we have policies that ensure equity, fairness and transparency. Always.”

Ackerman said council will provide staff with direction to initiate a process to open dialogue.

The City Manager also wanted to take the time to reiterate that the city has the same goals and expectations as the construction community and that they are very committed to transparency.

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