Conception Bay South Mayor Terry French is defending council’s decision to award a $500,000 contract for emergency repairs to the town’s swimming pool without going to tender.
French was responding to complaints by local businessman Bob Yetman who feels his firm and another CBS company that does that kind of work should have had a chance to compete for the job.
The pool, or CBS Recreation Complex as it is officially called, closed March 1 when the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit broke down, making it impossible to adequately vent the humid building to protect it from mould growth. At first, council estimated the repair bill at some $750,000 to $800,000. But that figure included other repairs and upgrades that council planned to make to the facility. The provincial government has agreed to pay 60 per cent of the $500,000 worth of work related to replacing the HVAC unit.
“It (the HVAC breakdown) was a spur of the moment kind of thing,” said the mayor. “We laid it on the table; one of the things was, would we go to tender, or would we use the Public Tendering Act provision that allows for any time there is an emergency and you can get something done quickly that needs to be done quickly, you can do it? “
Because so many people depend on the pool, French said, council opted to use the emergency provision to award the work right away without calling bids. There was also the consideration that Carmichael Engineering, the company that got the job, had recently won a contract to provide maintenance at the pool, and so it knew the building and was on site, so to speak.
“And the lead time to get the piece of equipment we needed was 12 weeks as it was,” said French. “So we thought if we went to public tender, where would we be by the time we got the pool fixed?
It would just add weeks, if not months, on to the (reopening) date. I can assure you no one wants to keep work on the shore any more than me and the council, I know I can speak for everyone on that. It’s sad because we didn’t give anyone on the shore a chance to bid on it, let alone keep it (the work) on the shore, so I can understand where somebody would be totally disappointed, especially someone who has been in business for years, living in CBS, paying taxes, but unfortunately in this instance we had to weigh the number of people who were inconvenienced, the extra cost to parents and seniors who exercise there to leave and travel somewhere else. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly. Unfortunately, at the end of the day a business in CBS was not able to bid on it… but hopefully it will cut some time off for the thousands of users of the pool. We felt we had to do it as quickly as we could to get the HVAC system in place and the pool reopened.”
French said the work is expected to be finished and the pool reopened sometime in July. “It’s a 12 week lead up time just to get the equipment here,” he said. “It wouldn’t have mattered who won (a bid), you’d still have to order in the equipment. That would have added a couple of months at least if we had gone through the public tendering process and then we would be into the fall before it opens.”
Yetman argues that 12-week lead time gave the town plenty of time to call a tender.
“It kind of upset me a little bit,” said Yetman, founder of Yetman’s Sheet Metal which has been operating in CBS for more than four decades. “In my mind it is not an emergency when it is recreation, but that’s only my opinion. But to just turn it around and give it to someone to do and we’re here in the town as taxpayers, and there’s another fellow in Long Pond (who does similar work) it’s just not right what they did.”
Yetman said normally any kind of government work is tendered, or at least sent out to get three competing prices.
“What makes the swimming pool an emergency?” said Yetman, who noted he has a daughter who used the pool and a granddaughter in a swimming program. “It’s a recreation complex, it’s pleasure… An emergency to me is the main water line busting in the middle of the highway in Manuels or somewhere.”
Yetman pointed out Carmichael Engineering is located on the mainland, while his company, and the Long Pond company, McCarthy’s Mechanical Limited, are paying taxes here in CBS. Yetman said he wouldn’t have minded losing the work to a more competitive bid from Carmichael – if he had been given the chance to compete.
Keith McCarthy, the owner of McCarthy’s Mechanical, reserved comment for the time being, explaining he didn’t know why the work went out untendered.
Yetman, whose company has worked on everything from the Hibernia project, Ronald McDonald House and bank construction, was not reticent.
“It’s not out of our scope of work whatsoever,” said Yetman. “It’s like a bit of salt in your wounds when you start thinking about it. There is an eight to 10-week delivery time on some of the stuff they’re going to do down there – they had lots of time to tender it… To me there is something wrong with what happened… It’s worth rattling somebody’s cage.”
The other work being done in the building, including re-grouting of the pool and renovating the change rooms, is being conducted by Town of CBS staff.