CORNWALL – A city councillor has sharply criticized administration for sole-sourcing a nearly $83,000 sound system for council meetings.
The wireless audio system for $82,933 was contained in a non-competitive procurement report to council Monday night.
The report states that it was purchased based on a policy that it can be done “if strictly necessary, and for reasons of urgency brought about by events unforeseeable by the corporation (including any emergency).”
“I would like an answer as to why, if a free service was available to us to meet, why this would be deemed strictly necessary,” Coun. Eric Bergeron asked, inferring that Zoom was available to council. He participated in Monday’s council meeting via Zoom.
CFO Tracey Bailey answered that the city was working under emergency orders and “they felt that this was the avenue that best served for conducting business so we went ahead.”
CAO Maureen Adams explained that while council moved to the Cornwall Civic Complex to enable physical distancing measures, there were also “significant problems” with the sound system in the city hall council chambers that including the system audio going down during “a critical point in (a council) the meeting.”
The city hall system is “beyond its useful life” and the new system at the civic complex is “easily transferable” when meetings resume at city hall, Adams added.
While a number of councillors have been passionate about meeting in person and slow to embrace technology, Bergeron has said in the past that he’s not comfortable meeting in a room with his counterparts during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I believe we had an alternative that would have cost zero dollars. I would have preferred to see that take place than to spend $82,000 to host meetings the way we are,” a discontented Bergeron said.
Council then accepted the sole-sourcing report.
Also in the report and purchased under the same clause was $70,377 in N95 and surgical masks, sole-sourced by the fire department.