Local contractor questions City’s procurement process

The City of Courtenay’s procurement process has one resident asking about its fairness.

The City of Courtenay’s procurement process has one resident asking about its fairness, and whether it’s going against its own strategy to reduce greenhouse gases.

Kirsty Gibson-Bell is questioning the city’s purchasing policy, particularly in regards to the Anderton Retaining Wall project – a large, $365,000 project with a quick turnaround to replace the current sheet metal in place.

On June 20, council approved the funds for the project, and chose Spider Lake Rock and Gravel in Qualicum Beach as the sole source rock supplier for the project.

Gibson-Bell says her family’s local quarry – Bell Bulldozing Rock Quarry located 16 km from Courtenay – was overlooked, going against a Climate Action Charter signed by the city in 2007 and a Corporate Climate Action Strategy developed in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as much as possible.

Not only that, but Bell’s owner says he received a call from contractors to provide a quote one day before the funding request was prepared and distributed to Courtenay council.

But the City’s chief administrative officer said the contractors did attempt to contact Bell Bulldozing and did not receive a reply of supply in time, given the tight timeline of the project.

David Allen notes in an email to The Record the project needs to be completed within a very narrow window of opportunity to meet the requirements of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and concern for the environment is a critical component of the project.

“This is a larger issue than GHG emissions alone. Stabilizing this retaining wall will protect the sensitive Courtenay Estuary from potential damage.”

He adds to expedite the preparations and construction for this project, the City took the “somewhat unusual step of hiring two local contractors,” – Leighton Contracting Ltd. and J.R. Edgett Excavating Ltd.

As Bell Bulldozing Rock Quarry couldn’t confirm whether they had the specific rock gradation on hand, Allen said it was a concern to both project contractors due to the very tight fisheries-related construction schedule.

Owner Mike Bell said he received an initial phone call from Leighton on June 16. He notes he was out of cell range, and left a message with the contractor after hours at 5:40 p.m. He again returned their call at around 8 a.m. June 17 to quote them a price for the rock required.

Calls to Leighton to confirm the dates were not returned.

A representative with Spider Lake Rock and Gravel could not confirm specifically when he received a call from the contractors, as he added calls for quotes for rock from contractors generally do not involve details about specific projects. When asked if he thought the call came earlier in the month (June), he said: “That sounds about right.”

Gibson-Bell adds the project was an opportunity for council to include energy and emission impacts within their decision making.

“Given the considerable amount of distance from Spider Lake Rock and Gravel to this project, this is a further opportunity for the City to limit the use of diesel-powered equipment.”

She added given the distance (Spider Lake Rock and Gravel is 54.3 km away from Courtenay) between that quarry and the project, an additional hour of trucking would be required per load. As the project is time sensitive, she said the necessary supply of rock would be accessible in a timely manner, with Bell Bulldozing Rock Quarry located off the Inland Island Highway near Hamm Road.

But Allen adds the difference in pricing between the two suppliers for materials and transport is negligible, and the City is confident the decision on choosing a rock supplier was based on the best information available to project contractors and engineers in the limited time available.

Gibson-Bell says she has emailed the City with her concerns, particularly around the issue of the impact of the environment due to the added trucking of materials, but it was not addressed and she did not receive a response to those concerns.

“The City of Courtenay has invested in a Corporate Climate Action Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emission as much as possible. There is a larger issue here,” she noted.

Lesley Hatch, director of engineering for the City, said the Corporate Climate Action Strategy aims to reduce GHG emission in activities the City does in construction, particularly in relation to anti-idling practices.

“By signing the contract agreement, the contractor is making a commitment to adhere to the conditions therein.”

She explained the same trucks that bring the rocks from the quarry will be needed onsite. The rocks are unloaded directly from the truck by the excavator and placed into the river as opposed to a typical process of dumping the rock in a staging area and immediately re-circulating back to the source, which will result in some idling of trucks queuing onsite.

“Based on the Climate Action Strategy, the City encourages contractors to minimize idling during construction and this is outlined in our standard contract document; this practice will not change for this project, however, it may not be able to be achieved to the same degree given the site constraints and operational needs to complete the work.”

Hatch notes staff were working on the report to council up to the last minute on June 16, including finalizing the material sources.

Work began on the project Monday, and has a planned completion date of Aug. 15.

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