While council eventually agreed Monday night to sub-contract George Armstrong Co. Ltd., through its Operations and Facilities Division, to install the sanitary sewer and water connection for the new River Walk condominium project on Front Street, a debate over town policy nearly meant a significant delay in how soon construction could be completed.
The contested issue came up when Operations and Facilities manager Pat Hickerson asked council to approve awarding the contract to the company instead of having Public Works do it.
Town policy is to have Public Works do any sanitary water and sewer work on town property, but Hickerson noted that wasn’t feasible at this time.
“Given the size and the scope of the project, and the amount of work that needs to get done right now elsewhere, we don’t have the manpower to get this done before the snow flies,” Hickerson said.
He added the matter had been cleared up with the union covering Public Works employees union and that the town instead should hire someone else to do the job.
And coming in at roughly $19,000 less than what it would cost Public Works to do the work, George Armstrong Co. Ltd. seemed like the best choice to do it.
But when the vote to approve the action ended up 4-3 in favour of denying it, the bickering began over the possibility that allowing the River Walk condo project to hire a private contractor would set precedence—and open the door for further circumventing of said town policy down the road.
“There’s a policy in place,” argued Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who opposed the action along with Couns. Roy Avis, Neil Kabel, and Struchan Gilson.
“If we go ahead, this is going to come back and haunt us,” warned Coun. Kabel.
“We’re going to screw up this project and we were trying to make work. I don’t believe this,” countered Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” he added, noting if the town waited for Public Works to do the job, the sewer work likely would be delayed until the spring.
The condo project is targeted for completion by the end of this year.
“There was a willingness to pay the amount [charged by Public Works]. We just don’t have the manpower to do it,” echoed Coun. Sharon Tibbs.
“The union has given us their blessing on it. We should go ahead with it,” remarked Coun. Deane Cunningham.
At that point, Hickerson noted the contractor already had been given the green light on the project.
“Oh, that’s a wonderful way to vote,” said Coun. Kabel. “We’ve put the cart before the horse too many times.”
“We have to find a way to get this thing going,” said Coun. Gilson as council was at a stalemate yet under pressure to keep the $5-million, 32-unit project on schedule.
Mayor Witherspoon then asked council to reconsider the vote, which drew a vote of 5-2 in favour of reasoning an answer to the quandary, with Coun. Avis and Bourgeault still voting “no.”
But ultimately Coun. Avis came up with the idea of having the Operations and Facilities Division, which encompasses Public Works, be assigned the job, and, in turn, sub-contract the work out to George Armstrong Co. Ltd.
Project developer Penn-Co then would be billed roughly $37,000.