Deputy mayor floats ‘highly illegal’ idea to give Lunenburg project to local company

South Stormont Deputy Mayor David Smith. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

LONG SAULT – An idea by South Stormont’s deputy mayor to sidestep a bidding process for a quarter-million dollar project on North Lunenburg Road West was quickly shot down by township administration as being “highly illegal.”

Nine companies bid on a culvert replacement – the bids ranging from $230,245 to $400,100. The two lowest bids were roughly $4,000 apart. Ottawa D Squared Construction was $230,245 while David Brown Construction of Ingleside was $234,359.

The township budgeted $324,000 for the culvert.

“For the difference of $4,000 we’re awarding this contact or tender to an out-of-town group when we have a local contractor,” Deputy Mayor Dave Smith said during a Wednesday council meeting. “For the sake of $4,000 on a $230,000 tender we’d be able to keep a local company working and their men working and we’d just be keeping the money in our own community. For $4,000, it’s prudent to award this contract to a local bidder.”

South Stormont’s chief administrative officer was quickly to throw cold water on the idea.

“While the sentiment is very appreciated…unfortunately it would be highly illegal for the township to do that. Legislation does not permit us to select simply on the basis of dollar value associated with who may be living in our township,” CAO Debi LucasSwitzer responded.

“If they’re in the township, they have as much right as everyone else to sharpen their pencil. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a local organization that sharpened their pencil as quite as much as someone from Ottawa,” she added.

“I’m very frustrated to hear that,” Smith responded. “It’s disheartening. When people are tendering, it does say the lowest price won’t necessarily get the job. I believe it’s just not for the company that’s local. I believe it’s in the best interest of the township for any repairs or followup work that needs to be done, it’s gonna be cheaper because they’re local.”

Coun. Cindy Woods agreed partly with Smith but added that council needs to be accountable to the taxpayer. “I’m happy with the way things turned out. I would much prefer to see someone local. But I think our due diligence is done.”

Mayor Bryan McGillis commented that just giving the project to a local company would undermine the whole bidding process and discourage firms from participating in the future.

A pleased Public Works Director Ross Gellately said they were “very surprised” by the number of competitive bids. He added that there would have to be a valid reason under procurement law and specifying local contractors isn’t in that law.

Gellately also noted that the Ottawa company who won the contract, also owns a quarry in SD&G.

The tender passed in a vote of 4-1 with Coun. Dave Smith the only one to vote against it.