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Construction contract awarded to off-Island company; Summerside council not happy about decision

Former Summerside mayor Basil Stewart. -File
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart. -File

The City of Summerside has reluctantly awarded a sizable contract for sidewalk construction and repair to a company based in Saint John, N.B.

Long-time Coun. Bruce MacDougall said the vote was “One of the hardest decisions, I’ve had to make in a long time.”

He wasn’t alone.

Council has been pressing city staff for weeks to find a way around having to award this contract to Classic Construction. The main concern voiced by almost all the councillors was that it is not a local company and they don’t like the idea of Summerside tax dollars supporting an off-Island company the city has never had dealings with before.

“For the $11,000 we’re saving, how much are we loosing (to wages leaving the community),” said Mayor Basil Stewart.

For more than a decade Summerside-based MacAuslands Construction Ltd. had been the successful bidder on the city’s annual sidewalk tender. However, New Brunswick company Classic Construction entered a bid for the first time this year and was not only the lowest bidder at $426,327 but also said it could do the work in half the time of the next lowest bidder’s quoted schedule.

Classic Construction has been active since 2012 and has routinely completed work for the City of Saint John. That city’s engineers told their counterparts in Summerside that they’ve never had any major issues with the company’s work.

Both city staff and outside legal advice sought specifically on this issue advised that Summerside council that the city is bound by the terms of the original tender and not awarding the contract to Classic Construction, as the lowest bidder, would leave the city at significant legal liability.

“From a legal perspective it’s as black and white as it gets,” said Gordon MacFarlane, the city’s director of legal affairs.

Staff also reminded council that the municipality is subject to regional tendering agreements, which are designed to allow companies to bid interjurisdictionally in order to get the best value for the taxpayer.

Councillors Bruce MacDougall, Brian McFeely and Barb Ramsay all voted in favour of awarding the contract – but all noted they wouldn’t have done so if it did not put the city at risk of a lawsuit. Councillors Carrie Adams and Cory Snow, voted against it. Coun. Greg Campbell abstained, which technically counted as a vote in favour. Councillors Justin Doiron and Deputy Mayor Norma McColeman were not in attendance.

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