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High cost of snow plowing ‘unacceptable’: council

UPDATE: Feeling snowed under at paying a 256 per cent increase, council did not approve a $1.7 million contract tender from Drew Harrison Haulage for winter plowing of six routes and directed staff to negotiate again – asking the company to “bear in mind the overall commercial relationship” it has with the County.

Though some wrestled with accepting a bid from a company that did not tender, council did approve an eight-year contract with QBT Excavating Services out of Brighton that was received outside of the tender process for four other routes. It is valued at about $497,800 per year.

Discussion lasted for more than an hour as councillors volleyed various ideas and motions to make a more palatable plan.

“Either the bidder will, or will not talk further to us,” said Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works. “The difficulty is having something in place for November of this year.”

McAuley also noted the County’s costs related to peer groups is in range as far as the cost to maintain a kilometre of road, but the problem is a disproportionate amount of roads for the population to support.

McAuley explained multiple options staff attempted in the first negotiation following receipt of the 10-route tender bid at more than $3.8 million – a 338 per cent higher cost than in previous years. Drew Harrison Haulage agreed to a reduction in costs to $500 an hour for services from $671 per hour and would consider a reduced number of routes.

McAuley said staff became aware of the new company in Brighton while researching all avenues far and wide – including buying, borrowing and leasing its own equipment.

Locking in with QBT for the four routes, he said, allows the County to plan a strategy for gaining the 10 trucks and 24 drivers it needs – spreading the costs over a period of time. The trucks cost about $300,000 each, but he noted a silver lining could be that an extended fleet would allow the County to double up on road surface treating in the summertime.

Mayor Robert Quaiff praised staff for taking the lead in the initial negotiation.

“There was only one tender and it was out of sight. I think staff did their job getting in touch and saying we have a problem and need to talk; and to reach out and call other areas. They did everything in their power and it’s not their fault they were not successful. I can just imagine what staff would have went through here had they not done that.”

“This bidder does a lot of work with PEC and it’s my perception that we’re in a corner like a mouse,” said councillor Treat Hull. “By the same token, we’re accountable to ratepayers and we have to do something. This is an unacceptable amount.”

High cost of snow plowing on council’s agenda

AUG 27 – Significantly higher costs for winter plowing and a transition back to a County-supplied service will be on the table for discussion at Prince Edward County council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Viewing a “markedly increased” tender price $3,825,000 from one bidder to handle 10 routes, the County was facing a 338 per cent higher cost than in previous years.

The 2018 contracted actual cost was $1,132,000.

Drew Harrison Haulage presented prices of $671 standby and $671 hourly but agreed to lower the bid when staff met to negotiate reduced rates to $500 – but it still resulted in a 256 per cent cost increase for the season – at $2,849,750.

The bidder was unable to further reduce costs but would consider a reduced number of routes.

Staff became aware of another potential service provider out of Brighton prepared to enter into an eight-year contract for up to four routes at a $200 per day, per vehicle standby and $225 per hour per route per season – with cost increases at two per cent per year. The estimated annual cost is at $497,800 per season.

“The County is not in a position to acquire 10 tandem snow plow units and recruit 24 drivers in time for the 2018/2019 winter season,” the report said, also noting there were no other service providers found who have capacity to supply the County.

“Given the increased price indication from the tender, staff recommends the County begin to plan to acquire equipment and staff to internalize all 10 routes at the end of the respective contract periods.”

The staff report recommends a $1,710,000 winter maintenance contract for six plow routes with Drew Harrison Haulage and an eight-year contract for four plow routes with QBT Excavating Services Ltd., at a cost of $497,800 per year.

The 2018 budget for contracted services was $800,000. The approval of the tender will impact the annual budget by an estimated increase of $1,407,800. The 2018 winter control budget is $2,850,000.

* * *

Tenders for asphalt and sidewalk repairs are also on the agenda Tuesday.

Three tenders were received for asphalt repairs, though one was disqualified for not registering before the tender was submitted.
The low bid of $325,969 from Fitzgibbon Limited is being recommended to council. Asphalt repairs are an annual budgeted maintenance item.

Work would be done on sections of various roads throughout the County by mid-September.

Parkside Landscaping & Contracting was the lone tender received at $112,255 plus HST for sidewalk construction, maintenance, curb and gutter repairs throughout the County.

The 2018 budget includes an allocation for the reconstruction of existing sidewalks and construction of new connecting sidewalks where necessary.

Work includes various sidewalk panels in Picton, Bloomfield, Wellington and Cherry Valley.

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  1. hockeynan says:

    One councilor wanted a one year contract.Just where are you going to get someone to bid 10 trucks for one year.I don’t think half of the Council had even read the tender.These trucks have special boxes on them for sanding and you just can’t use them for heavy rocks.

  2. Chuck says:

    Has anyone seen a Council discuss a tender and a bid outside of a still active tender in a public forum? I think not. This is unbelievable in this day and age. How was this allowed?

  3. Whatever says:

    You can see the council meeting at:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EesUJncxXkI

    push ahead about 29 mins.

  4. Fred says:

    Another Councilor in the live stream video is heard speaking with mic on during a break, “we are not getting out of this cheap “. Watch the live stream video on the County site and see how this unfolded. Unbelievable, particularly the public negotiation.

  5. Susan says:

    One Councillor considered the County’s handling of this matter as unethical. Also suggested contractors added aggravation fees of 10 -15 % in having to deal with the County.

  6. Whatever says:

    Honestly, if this is the way The County treats all it’s contractors it’s a wonder anyone bids!

  7. Chuck says:

    I have never quite witnessed such a debacle by our Council. Negotiating in public, defaming a tender such as “a cat with a mouse in the corner”. Calling and negotiating with another contractor who did not bid, with a tender not cancelled.And a motion to renegotiate with a rider of the relationship. If not a veiled threat. This late to snowfall this fails dearly.

  8. Fred says:

    Can you imagine the outcome if that motion as worded was ever raised and presented in a legal forum. Council should no better than this.

  9. Whatever says:

    From what I understand, The County does things like that all the time. One of the counselors said at that meeting that it is not uncommon for bidders to tack on a 10 – 15% “aggravation fee” when bidding county tenders. I think The County has a reputation they are not crazy about but, nevertheless, have earned.

  10. Susan says:

    In the August 28 meeting, “That staff be directed to negotiate with Drew Harrison Haulage Ltd. to perform winter maintenance,bearing in mind the overall commercial relationship between the proposed contactor and the County”. What kind of negotiation is this by the County? Shocking! Sounds like a pressure tactic being placed upon the contractor if he wants anymore County business. It’s hard to believe that this type of wording was actually put in a motion, as it raises all kinds of red flags.

  11. Whatever says:

    How the hell is this the bidders fault? If only one company bid it makes me wonder why all the others piled out. If you’re looking for someone to blame I would look no further than The County itself.

  12. snowman says:

    This single tender was likely the result of one of the previous contractors selling his fleet. The remaining contractor would have been aware of this. You might call this tendering in bad faith.
    Council should re tender. No one should expect to have their bid selected at an increase of this magnitude. Obviously the firm from Brighton was happy with their pricing.

  13. ron slatter says:

    Steve a number of years ago the county had all the equip. and help. they still have mechanics and a place for doing repairs.they have loaders and operators and the equip.and it can be used in the summer as well instead of hiring trucks in the summer. it also helps the employment line in the county if they hire part time help there is no reverence pay.separating plows and salters means more trucks required and more drivers. that is not good economicts
    it only makes sense to go back to own county equip to do the work
    it will take some time to get back to doing their own work instead of hiring contractors who have to make a profit to stay in bussiness

  14. Whatever says:

    why did only one company bid on this tender in the first place? Is there more to the story we’re not being told?

  15. Steve says:

    10 trucks and 24 drivers is only the tip of the iceberg and no one is thinking ahead. These trucks will require mechanics, a shop to maintain them, a supervisor, a pick up truck for the supervisor, staff to administer to them, and then the work will multiply to keep these assets busy during the rest of the year which in turn will require more assets, e.g. a loader and operator, etc. etc. If you try and lay off the drivers in the off months then the County will have to pay severance and compensation. If you keep them employed, then benefits, pensions, etc. will accrue.
    It makes a lot more sense for the County to make use of contractors’ trucks which would allow the County businesses to employ their staff on a year round basis. There are many owner operator and county businesses that have trucks the size required with only a wing and plow required, vehicles such as water haulers, septic maintenance, and many others. What did the tender specify for truck requirements? Is there a reason that these contractors would not have been able to fulfill the requirements of the RFQ or were they not considered and invited to bid? Is it because the tender required the trucks to all have salters for example? But not all trucks have to salt. And perhaps the plowing and salting need be separated into two entities to be bid separately. Less salt is a good thing for the environment. Using County contractors who work and pay taxes here as well as spend their paycheques here makes good economic sense. If outside the County contractors and staff are used then the tender process has failed.
    Staff needs to think outside the box on this one.

  16. ron slatter says:

    several years ago when council at the time decided to contract out snowplowing that they would regret that decision it has come to pass now the taxpayer is on the hook again anyone with a lick of sense should realise that a contractor has to make a profit at that time the county had all the equipment it needed for the job and the help to do it many other jobs have been contracted out at a huge cost to taxpayers that no one talks about i guess we get crapped on again

  17. Chris Keen says:

    But now there are two contractors … one significantly cheaper; the monopoly is over. County employees can plow the roads just as well as anybody else … and probably cost taxpayers a lot less money.

  18. Argyle says:

    The municipality likes to contract a lot of work out, sooner or later the contractors will make you pay.

  19. hockeynan says:

    Trucks can’t be any older than 10 years at the end of the contract. Do you know what a new plow truck is worth?Funny how we have plowed snow for years with older trucks but all of a sudden that won’t work .

  20. Chuck says:

    Would have been a better article to explain a +300% increase and why. Perhaps the info was not made available. But, how do we afford this?

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