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Mayor’s Column – July 26, 2017

July 26, 2017

On July 17 Council authorized the awarding of a contract to pave the Airport Runway to Peters Brothers. This is one of the major upgrading contracts to be awarded this year. (Peters Brothers will also be doing the street paving this summer.) Selecting the successful bidder for a contract such as this is a challenge in itself requiring the most careful attention to process. In the end, if the process is fair and can be shown to be fair, there is little room for complaint – actually there is no room for complaint.

Nobody on Council or Administration can be expected to be expert on the technical details of a paving contract. In fact, let me reemphasize (again), it is not Council’s function to be expert on any operational function and the Council that dares to trespass into Administration’s territory is a Council that will bring chaos to the municipal government. The Council that understands its role and respects its boundaries is the Council that is likely to enjoy a relatively peaceful tenure.

So just what role does Council have in the awarding of a major contract – or any contract? Council’s role is actually very clear. In its wisdom, Council sets the priorities for allocating the revenues of the municipality. Also in its wisdom, Council defines the guidelines for the awarding process and monitors to ensure that the rules have been followed.

In the case of the runway paving contract, Director of Engineering and Public Works, Paul Gordon, put out a request for expressions of interest asking for details on how the Contractor intended to address the specific challenges of the project. Mr. Gordon also notified the interested contractors that he would submit their proposals for evaluation to an independent engineering firm with appropriate expertise to make a judgment and that he would accept the advice of the engineer.  By submitting a proposal under these conditions, each interested contractor tacitly agreed to the terms.

This also makes Council’s work on the runway file almost painless. We examine the process. We find it transparent and without flaw. We authorize that the contract be awarded to the firm recommended by the engineer, which happened to be the low bidder.

You might be interested in the genesis of the runway paving project. It all started not that long ago when Administration became aware of a potential grant for airport improvement. With Council’s blessing a proposal was submitted – no small feat in itself – and in due time, to our delight, Chetwynd’s proposal was approved and Administration began in earnest to prepare for the season’s paving.

Not all contracts come together as cleanly as that for the Airport Runway. Some are much more complex requiring correspondingly more time and attention to detail on the part of the Director of Engineering and Public Works. But the same principles apply to all: Council is focused on process and the process must be open, transparent, free from favoritism. I am confident that I can affirm this as Council’s goal. Have we been consistently successful in achieving this goal? Probably not but I think the Airport Runway project certainly meets our ethical standards.

Merlin Nichols, Mayor