Change order for softball lighting leads to lengthy debate at Paradise council

By Mark Squibb/July 15, 2022

The Town of Paradise has approved a costly change order to the softball lighting installation project at the Milton Road ballfield, though one councillor voted against the motion as he thought the Town may have saved money if it had issued a request for proposals (RFP).

Council initially approved the work through an e-mail poll on June 29, and ratified it at the public meeting last week.

“During the installation of the new lights at the Milton Road softball field, it was discovered that the existing conduit did not have sufficient space for the new wiring for the additional lights,” explained councillor Deborah Quilty. “The current contract does not include the installation of the additional conduit to supply the necessary power thus, Town staff requested the contractor, Eastern Contracting Ltd., to provide a price for the supply and installation of the necessary conduit to complete the work.”

That price came to $41,400, HST included.

Work includes approximately 150 metres of trenching and backfill, and the supply and installation of 240 metres of conduit.

“Staff considers this price acceptable and within market range for the work, when compared with our own pre-tender estimates,” said Quilty. “There is expected to be a conduit price increase of five percent within a week, which limits the validation of the quote. For this reason, it was decided to go to an e-mail poll of council for accelerated approval to lock in the material cost.”

Quilty said there were discussions regarding the value of the change order in relation to the overall contract value and the inability to determine whether the contract would be the lowest price in an open bid process, and the impact this change order will have on the project schedule and use of the field.

The e-poll carried 6-1, with councillor Carew standing as the lone member opposed.

Carew spoke briefly to his opposition to the motion.

“The question, for clarification, was asked, ‘Would the delay in completing this work impact user groups that use that facility,’ and the answer from our Infrastructure and Engineering Director was ‘No,’” said Carew.

The cost of the work was Carew’s biggest objection.

“This change order represents just over 57 percent of the current project cost estimate, and when you add in the change order number one, it’s just over 71 percent of the original cost estimate. Your Worship, because of all those factors, and in the interest of financial transparency to residents, I voted ‘No,’ in this e-poll to this change order because I feel that because of the large percentage of the original scope of cost we should be going to an RFP.”

The actual cost of the project did not come up at the meeting

Council approved the installation of lights at the Milton Road softball pitch in December 2021.

The original cost of the project, which was bundled with the installation of solar lights at Paradise Park, was $57,810. That was for installation, as the lights had been purchased earlier, and did not include the cost of the first change order.

Councillor Elizabeth Laurie argued the latest change order was unfortunate, but she still felt confident in voting in favour of it.

“We’ve run into situations like this quite often, and it’ is unfortunate, no one wants to see change orders, but sometimes we can’t do anything but go with what comes to it,” said Laurie. “It was a significant change order but, I don’t know if we would actually have any cost savings if we went out to RFP because the work still has to be done. The work is the work, it is what it is. The contractor was there already, we can get it done, and get it done in time, we have a five percent increase coming for the conduit, so I think it was important to get that done as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Patrick Martin echoed Laurie’s remarks.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Martin. “No one likes to see change orders, but it does happen from time to time. I thought it was important to get the lights done, and the five percent increase would have been another major amount of money that we took on if we had waited any longer to do it. And going to an RFP doesn’t mean we’re going to have cost savings.”

Larry Vaters voiced his two cents worth as to why he voted in favour of the change order, despite the high cost.

“I voted to approve to process based upon the idea that there was a contractor on site, there was an economy of scale, there was the benefit of efficiency of having someone there already, there is the benefit of staff time, there is an allocation of time for each to these projects that we need to be cognizant of, and when a piece of work goes out to an RFP, we want to be able to move on to something else, because there’s lots of work to be done,” said Vaters. “I was obviously very cognizant of the cost. As councillor Carew correctly noted, there was a very significant cost to this particular work, no question about it. But I wasn’t satisfied that going through another RFP proces, would have reduced that burden to the town. Maybe it would have, maybe it wouldn’t have, but what it would definitely have done is enhance the time in a negative way to complete the project.”

Deputy Mayor Kimberley Street agreed.

“I supported this too because of the time constraints that are put in place,” said Street, who added that due to rising costs over the last several months, the original contract would likely be much more expensive in today’s dollars. “I think it’s all relative to the increase being extreme, because of the way all prices have increased significantly in the last six to eight months, I think it’s all relative to that.”

Councillor Quilty, who brought forward the motion, had the final say.

“It’s work that needs to be done, and in lieu of the time of the year, it’s a project that has to be finished, and based on the cost and the pricing, if an RFP had gone out, it may come back less, or it may come back higher, but at the end of the day, we did the right thing here,” said Quilty.

When put to a vote, Carew, not swayed by the other councillors’ arguments, voted against the ratification.

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