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Red Deer County tendering process questioned

Questions arose over bidding process for servicing contract at Junction 42

Some Red Deer County councillors want to review how projects are tendered after questions arose over a recent contract for underground services at Junction 42 truck stop.

The county called for tenders last year to extend underground services to the future site of new EQUS offices, shop and storage yard at Junction 42.

EQUS and the county announced last August that an agreement had been reached to buy just over seven acres at the Highway 2 commercial development. About 40 employees will work out of the site for EQUS, which provides co-operative electricity distribution services for more than 13,000 rural Alberta homes, farms and businesses, including those which have already set up shop at Junction 42.

Tenders closed on Dec. 22 with eight compliant bidders. After review, four bidders were shortlisted for the county by Al-Terra Engineering Ltd. They were chosen based on an evaluation system that looked at their experience, including work on similar projects, and ability to meet the Sept. 15 completion deadline among other factors.

The dollar amount of the bid was not considered at that stage.

Of those shortlisted, Northside Construction Partnership had the low bid of just under $1.8 million, which increases with contingencies to a total budget of $1.9 million — about 10 per cent higher than the county’s initial budget estimate.

However, some councillors had apparently been notified by one of the unsuccessful bidders that the work could have been done cheaper.

Coun. Christine Moore said since council’s role is to provide oversight she would like to see all of the tenders, including the prices, not just the four that made the final cut.

“I would like to see all the bids and ensure, if possible, we remain on budget for this project,” said Moore.

County manager Curtis Herzberg cautioned against changing the tendering process, which has been used by the county for many years, halfway through.

Any suggestion that there could have been a less expensive option if council had only seen all the bids is a “gross simplification of or tendering process,” Herzberg said.

Mayor Jim Wood said the county has a tendering policy in place that staff are entrusted to follow. Council would be over-stepping its role and getting into administration if it chose to interfere, he suggested.

“I’m confident we’re still getting value and we’re getting value from a contractor we know,” he said of the recommended tender.

Coun. Connie Huelsman, who has a background in the construction business, agreed council should stick to the procedures.

“We have to trust the process.”

Council voted 6-1 in favour of Northside’s tender, with Moore voting against.

Moore said she would still like to see the tendering process brought to a future council workshop for discussion. Coun. Dana Depalme agreed it might help councillors explain the process better in future to residents.

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