Backhoe tender unearths problems

Terry Roberts
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Clarke's Beach council, under threat of legal action, rescinds tender call

A red-faced town council in Clarke's Beach has rescinded a tender call for a new backhoe after a supplier of heavy equipment accused the town of undermining the true spirit of the Public Tender Act. A senior official with the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs also cautioned the town to "be careful,"the town's deputy mayor, Kevin Hussey, said during a public council meeting Feb. 28.

Garry Bendell is a councillor and chairman of the public works committee with the Town of Clarke's Beach.

A red-faced town council in Clarke's Beach has rescinded a tender call for a new backhoe after a supplier of heavy equipment accused the town of undermining the true spirit of the Public Tender Act.

A senior official with the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs also cautioned the town to "be careful,"the town's deputy mayor, Kevin Hussey, said during a public council meeting Feb. 28.

The controversy surrounds a recent tender call by the town for the supply and delivery of a new rubber-tire backhoe. The closing date for tenders was March 4.

The tender specifications said the town required a "JCB 214S or equivalent" model with four equal-size front and rear tires.

The problem is JCB is an actual manufacturer of heavy equipment.

The supplier of a rival model of backhoe, Stone Valley Equipment Ltd., took issue with the JCB reference in the tender call and complained to the town, Municipal Affairs and the Government Purchasing Agency.

"The specifications appear to favour a particular model of machine ...," Randy Crane, general manager of Stone Valley, wrote in a letter to the town.

Crane added the specifications appear to be "clearly written around this machine, and appears to eliminate any competition."

Crane said he had discussed the matter with officials from the government, and "it is our opinion that Stone Valley Equipment, as well as other equipment dealers, may have legal recourse if this tender proceeds in its present written form."

The issue generated a heated debate at the Feb. 28 meeting, with council voting 4-3 to rescind the tender and start over. Mayor Betty Moore, Hussey and councillors David Moore Jr. and Eldon Snow voted in favour, while councillors Garry Bendell, Roland Andrews and Winston Vokey opposed the motion.

Council was expected to meet late last week to restart the process.

Mayor Moore said she and most other members of council did not see the specifications, which were compiled by Coun. Bendell, who chairs the town's public works committee.

Most councillors agreed the reference to JCB should not have been included, but that was not enough for councillors to reach a consensus on the issue.

Andrews expressed frustration toward Municipal Affairs, and suggested officials with the department "stay out of it." And on the threat of legal action, Andrew stated, "let them take us to court."

Bendell said he followed the same procedures used by the Town of Brigus in late 2005. In its specifications, Brigus also referenced a JCB model, but there were no complaints from potential suppliers. Brigus eventually purchased the JCB for about $126,000 from Harvey and Company Ltd., said town manager/clerk Wayne Rose.

"The tendering process has likely changed a lot in the last five years," Rose told The Compass.

Stone Valley was the losing bidder on the Brigus tender.

Mayor Moore said it's not good enough that council followed the lead of another community. "I don't think (Brigus) did it right either," she said. "This has to be done so it's fair to everyone."

Mayor Moore described the issue as yet another setback for council, and noted "we're being looked at" by Municipal Affairs because "we have so many black marks against us."

In fact, an official with the department is expected to meet with council on March 9 to discuss the roles and responsibilities of members of council.

Meanwhile, Bendell said there was no intent to undermine the Public Tender Act. But he emphasized that the town should have the right to specify exactly what it's looking for in a backhoe.

The town plans to use the backhoe for snowclearing and general maintenance.

editor@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: Stone Valley, Beach council, Department of Municipal Affairs Government Purchasing Agency Harvey and Company

Geographic location: Brigus, The Compass.Stone Valley

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