Town defends choice of contractor

Duane Hicks

A letter to the editor in last week’s Times, criticizing council for hiring a U.S.-owned company to do several construction jobs here this summer, prompted the town to explain its procurement policy and clarify that area subcontractors also are benefiting from the work.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said at Monday night’s meeting that the town hired Wagner Construction Canada ULC according to the municipal and provincial procurement policies.
Back in May, the town put out a call for tenders, asking for bonded and insured companies. Wagner Construction Canada ULC, a U.S.-owned company bonded in Canada, submitted the lowest bid.
Brown noted administration and council are required to follow a provincial procurement policy, where they must take the low bid or have a good reason not to.
“Wagner Construction Canada did have the proper qualifications,” he explained. “We had an engineering firm that did all the work for the town that recommended Wagner.
“Administration brought a report recommending Wagner Construction Canada be offered this.
“Just so everyone is aware, between the low bid and the second low bid, there was $218,771.39 difference,” Brown added. “That’s roughly a two percent increase in taxes if we went with the second low bid.
“There’s got to be a good reason we wouldn’t do that,” he stressed.
Additionally, Wagner is buying locally and using multiple Northwestern Ontario subcontractors to do work, noted Brown.
Piping material was bought from Emco (Thunder Bay) while concrete manholes and catch basins were purchased from Lafarge (Thunder Bay).
Granular materials (‘A’ and ‘B’) were purchased from Tom Veert Contracting Ltd., with Pioneer (Kenora) supplying the asphalt.
The landscaping work is being done by Daryl’s Custom Landscapes here while dredging and draining is being done by LTL (Thunder Bay).
Other concrete is being supplied by Lafarge locally, with the curbing and sidewalks being built by Coratina Construction (Thunder Bay).
Brown said that since 2004, only two companies have done water and sewer work in Fort Frances: LTL and Bay City Contracting Ltd.
“There isn’t a lot of people doing sewer and water,” he remarked. “We have an older infrastructure, we need the competition to do this, and Wagner Construction Ltd. did have all the qualifications and were the low bid.
“So, basically, council’s following the procurement policy of the province, our own procurement policy, and we’re following the rules,” Brown stressed.
Work on the season’s major project—the water and sanitary sewer line replacement, new storm sewer installation, and new asphalt on Third Street East between Mowat Avenue and Portage Avenue—began this week.
This job is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 27 (weather permitting).
Other projects being done this summer include the installation of sewer and water services for the new 10-unit apartment complex being built by Wahkaihganun Futures Corp., rebuilding Osborne Street between Christie Avenue and Armit Avenue, and the installation of new sewer and water services for a commercial property on McIrvine Road.
It also will include “looping” the watermain at the Shevlin wood yard easement between Nelson Street and Church Street, as well as the watermain on Sixth Street between Portage Avenue and McKenzie Avenue.
The town has received complaints about red or stagnant water from residents living in those parts of town.
The contractor will be looping the water services there to tie into the force main, so the water moves more and it will not stagnate at a “dead end.”
The entire batch of work is slated to be completed by early October.