Not holding back

Mayor and councillor jostle over Town’s requirement to pay contractor

By Craig Westcott|The Shoreline - January 16, 2019 Edition (Vol. 32 No. 44) 

Councillor Allan English is asking his colleagues on Paradise council to change the way it pays contractors who undertake major public works projects in the town.

The issue arose last week as council was in the process of voting approval of paying its bills. English called attention to a payment of some $390,000 to Weir’s Construction for finishing phase 4 of the Topsail Road reconstruction.

English argued the Town should hold back a percentage of the money in case there are any problems with the road next year.

According to the Department of Municipal Affairs practice, once a project is completed, the project has to be paid in full where there are provincial government monies involved. Paradise’s director of public works, Garry Spencer, advised council the Town does have a one-year warranty on the work so that if anything goes wrong in the next year, the contractor will be obliged to fix it.

That didn’t allay English’s concerns, who initiated the discussions by noting, “I just want confirmation that all the deficiencies related to Topsail Road phase 4 have been addressed. I’m assuming there were deficiencies,” he said.

Asked by Mayor Dan Bobbett for a report on the state of the project, Director Spencer replied, “There are no deficiencies, there is one warranty issue that will be addressed in the spring.”

“If we’re paying the hold back, are we holding back anything to ensure that if the contractor doesn’t do what they’re planning to do in the spring that we would have some recourse against them?” English asked.

Bobbett said under the warranty, “We should be covered. We don’t normally hold back on a warranty unless there is a specific warranty amount specified out side the contract,” he added.

English said he believes the Town has an issue with a different item relating to a different contract but with the same contractor.

Mayor Bobbett suggested that where English is a member of the public works committee, council could hold off on paying the hold back monies until English’s committee has a chance to look into the matter further.

English asked for confirmation that the other matter he had just raised does involve the same contractor.

Bobbett said in that particular instance the same contractor is involved, but the dispute is related to a stipulation made by an engineering company involving a pole. The Mayor said that particular issue has been ongoing for three-and-a-half years and English should have the detailed information on it. Chief administration officer Lisa Niblock said the work in question is scheduled to be done this spring.

English said he is familiar with the pole issue because he has raised it several times on behalf of a resident and was told “it’s going to be done next week… Put that aside,” he said. “The point here is, we had a multi million-dollar project on Topsail Road, we’re paying out the holdback, if this was my money, and in a sense it is, I’d feel a lot better if I had their money in my bank and when they need to do work I give them the cheque. That’s what I’m saying.”

Bobbett failed to see English’s point. “What we’ve found out is there’s no deficiencies, there is a warranty period of one year, so if somebody finishes the job and they offered a warranty that is included in the contract, why would you hold back monies if the job is completed with no known deficiencies?” he asked.

“You’re obviously much more trusting than I am,” said English.

“It’s got nothing to do with trust,” said the mayor. “We have a contract with a company. So, do we do that with all companies going forward? I disagree.”

Bobbett said to hold back money after the job is completed is outside the agreement made between the Town and the contractor. But the mayor added, where English is on the public works committee, he can certainly make the suggestion that in future contracts the Town withhold final payments until the warranty period expires and bring back that recommendation to council.

English said in this case it will be too late. “The analogy I would make is the horse has left the barn,” he said.

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