Businesspeople Paula Dober and Bill Dober brought the issue up to council during this week’s meeting. They wondered why many landlords in Marystown were unaware the town was looking to rent space.
According to acting chief administrative officer Mike Walsh, time constraints compelled the town to forego the public tendering process.
Walsh said plans to complete much-needed repairs to the town hall go back several years. The project had come up for tendering on a number of occasions and was stopped for one reason or another, he said.
“This time again it was still up in the air as to whether this was actually going to go through,” he said.
After much prior discussion about the project, official approval from council came on June 14, Walsh said, adding contractors wanted to be on the site by July 4.
Walsh said management staff felt there wasn’t enough time to go to tender and move the employees.
Part of the budget process for the project included looking around town for rental prices, Walsh said.
Council approved the rental of office space from Bi-Rite Ltd., starting on July 1, at a cost of $9,350, including heat and light, and HST. The upgrades are expected to take between six to eight months to complete. The estimated cost of the project is roughly $1.58 million.
Paula Dober said she “didn’t feel good” about how the town handled the situation.
“I’m looking at all the landlords in Marystown that had possible spaces to lease to you and many had not had an opportunity to show what they had. Is that fair?” she asked.
Walsh said at one point the budget for the project was over $2 million and again looking like it wouldn’t happen, but staff worked with the project’s engineers to cut costs.
Coun. Lisa Slaney said council’s initial intention was to relocate staff to other town-owned property, but that ultimately wasn’t possible, and in a time crunch, a decision was made the best move was to go ahead and rent space.
Coun. Leonard Pittman acknowledged the project to renovate the town hall has been atypical. The town was unable to find a contractor, he said, so council resorted to hiring a management company to oversee the job.
“This particular job, it’s been hashed and rehashed on a number of occasions to try to get this done,” he said.
“The building was in very, very sad shape, and you can go speak to the contractors that are at it now or you can go look and see that the building definitely needed major repairs, but we couldn’t get nobody to do it, and so that’s what ended up happening with the decision of council.”
Mayor Sam Synard said he was of the opinion a request for proposal or public tender for the office space could have been done, however.
“I think we had time to do it, to be quite honest,” he said during the discussion.
Whether or not that was the case will be decided by the Government Purchasing Agency, the province’s central procurement unit, which is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Public Tender Act.
Council applied to the agency for an emergency exemption for the project some time ago and is waiting for a decision.