Sewer contract draws criticism of council

Large contracts prohibitive for Sicamous companies.

Having awarded a $1.26 million contract to a Kelowna company for sewer works, Sicamous council hopes future contracts will be more friendly for local bidders.

Just days before the June 23 flooding/debris flow at Two Mile Creek, the district was preparing to move ahead with the extension of the sanitary sewer to Two Mile. Kelowna’s Matcon Construction, which is doing other projects in the community, was the lowest bidder at $1.34 million. With the flooding, however, the project was put on hold.

As a result of the debris flow and the shifting of Two Mile Cree, the district was able amend parts of the project, resulting in a cost reduction.

“Since then, we had this devastation out at Two Mile and, as a result of that, we have been able to put a casing underneath the creek bed… that will result in a savings of probably $50,000. So the tender award would be revised to $1.262 (million),” district works services manager Grady MacDonald explained to council.

Coun. Greg Kyllo commended Matcom for the work they’ve done, adding it was “a lot better job than the previous contractor.” And while he supported awarding the Two Mile contract to Matcom, Kyllo said he was concerned the municipality isn’t doing enough to make tenders accessible to local contractors and businesses.

“I know there’s a lot of smaller contractors that are looking for work within our community who reside here. They’re paying taxes, buying groceries, they’re supporting small business,” said Kyllo. “We’re putting a tender out in such a fashion that it’s too large for them to actually respond to… I really believe we as a council need to do more to have a look at how we can put these large tender packages into smaller packages, which gives some more local business an opportunity to quote on them.”

Part of the funding for the Two Mile sewer project comes from the federal government’s Building Canada Grant. Mayor Darrell Trouton noted how this grant money was made available to communities with the downturn of the economy.

“I think somewhere in the picture, we lose the mandate of what’s happening, and a lot of these jobs go out to big contractors, who just go from community to community, and they take all the work,” said Trouton. “The whole idea of the concept, I believe, was that it was to stimulate the economy and help create jobs in the community. So I find it very frustrating that we’re putting out tenders at such large amounts.”

Couns. Don Richardson and Terry Rysz understood where Kyllo and the mayor were coming from, and were supportive, but not with the Two Mile contract.

“I understand what Coun. Kyllo is saying; however, you start piecing out a big project… It doesn’t expedite anything. If you get an inconsistency in different works, then a project could last longer…,” Richardson commented. “Maybe there’s another way to restructure that, which is a good idea, but at this time here, I think we’re dealing with a player who knows what they’re doing. Let’s get it done.”

MacDonald noted the whole issue with the contractors is bonding, the cost of which is prohibitive on such large contracts.

District staff did not support breaking up such a large contract, warning the district would take on a management role and the liability that comes with it. However, it was suggested local independent businesses and contractors could form a consortium for bidding on future works.

 

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