‘Shop Local’ is the message that has been promoted around town and backed by Prince Rupert City Council to aid economic recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, shopping local is not what city council chose to do Monday as they awarded a lucrative road paving contract to a Kitimat company instead of a Prince Rupert firm.
Councillor Barry Cunningham, wanted it noted that he was opposed to awarding C & C Road Maintenance, an out-of-town firm, the $804,251.50 contract over that of locally-based Adventure Paving, which tendered at $1,007,831.38.
Justification by City Council of not shopping local in this instance was the 25.3 per cent difference, or $203,579.88, between the two tenders.
The tenders were for the 2020 capital paving program including trouble spots throughout the community. The capital expenditure was approved in December 2019.
Wade Niesh, city councillor said it just doesn’t make any sense to go with a bid that is 25 per cent higher. The same thing happened a couple of years ago when the city chose to go with an out-of-town firm which also had a lower bid for road paving, he said.
Councilor Nick Adey said that it needed to be recognized that if you pay a local company, then a good portion of the money comes back into the community. However, he said, he is also thinking along the lines of customer needs.
“On a very basic level it’s pretty simple. You know, the cost savings are significant and need to be taken seriously,” Adey said, posing the question if the out-of-town work crew would be bringing some of that money back into the community by lodging here during the project.
“I suspect that they wouldn’t be taking shelter here in hotel rooms. I suspect that they would be doing long hours. They’ve told us that they want to get all the paving done in a quite short span. So they’ll be working long hours to get all the paving done at once…” Richard Pucci, director of operations for the city said.
Barry Cunningham, city councillor said that this was “a tough one” because ‘Shop Local’ has been pushed and the employees of Adventure Paving are residents who spend their money in town. He questioned if the work crews of C & C Road Maintenance were all Kitimat residents and cited issues of out of town visitors during COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, we were pushing that no outside visitors come to town and now we’re contracting on a company that is an out-of-town company coming to town, when the pandemic restrictions that we were thinking of putting in place would still be in place, if our act of emergency had gone through.”
While Cunningham said he did agree that the city couldn’t just throw $200,000 into the air, at the same time he thinks “Shop Local’ should be supported as there other considerations outside the perimeters of a normal contract, such as an increase in taxes for the local business which is situated in the Industrial Park and that council didn’t always have to chose the lowest bid.
“I’ll just say you know, I think it is a tough one because you have a company that we definitely want to support, obviously because they’re a Rupert based company, but I also think we have to find the balance between accountability to the taxpayers and supporting local business,” Lee Brain, mayor said.
“As much as I personally want to support a local company, I can’t in good conscience go and overspend,” Brain said, “when you know that you could save that $200,000 and get additional value for what the taxpayers are paying for, which is to get the road works complete.”
The road work is yet to be scheduled but the contractor wants to get to it promptly, Pucci said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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