Max Picton said his position as a Penticton city councillor had no bearing on his construction company winning a valuable city contract.
Sun-Oak Construction, which Picton owns a 25 per cent share in, was awarded a contract for removal of 120,000 sandbags from Penticton beaches and low-lying areas. The contract is valued at about $187,000, plus $2.15 per bag for removal and disposal from private properties.
The city posted a request for proposals in June and awarded the contract in mid-July. Picton gave official notice of his interest in the company on July 14.
“I didn’t have a contract to notify the city about until they awarded the contract, so I notified the city before I signed,” said Picton.
Picton said they weren’t given any opportunity that wasn’t provided to any other potential contractors.
“All the information that I received came from the city website,” said Picton. “That’s actually how I found it, I wasn’t notified as a councillor.”
Picton said he notified the other council members that his company planned to submit a proposal for the contract.
The situation isn’t an unusual one, according to Picton, who points out that in some communities, especially smaller ones, a council member may own the only local company able to handle the job.
“It’s a very common occurrence all across the province. We did it 100 per cent by the book on this one,” said Picton. “Any communications, any information we received was through the regular channels, like anybody that would apply through the RFP.”
The only exception to that, Picton said, was the voluntary walk-through that only his company attended.
“Any questions we asked were added in as the addendum to the RFP on the city web page,” said Picton, who confirmed that he did not approach city staff attempting to gain advantageous information. “After that, any communication was just straight through to procurement management.”
In her report to city council, corporate officer Dana Schmidt said the Community Charter does not prohibit a council member from having a contract with the municipality but it does require the council member disclose the information and possible conflict.
Only one other company chose to submit a proposal, Dynamic Landscaping and Renos from Castlegar. According to chief financial officer Jim Bauer, the three city staff that evaluated the proposals gave Picton’s company an average score of 91.07 points, and Dynamic Landscaping 79.54 points.
Sun-Oak’s proposal was slightly higher for the base contract, $186,999 versus $186,749 from Dynamic Landscaping. But Dynamic proposed $2.96 for the approximately 9,000 sandbags on private lands, making their total price about $7040 higher than Sun-Oak’s $206,348.99 total.
“The Sun-Oak proposal scored higher points primarily owing to a more thorough and well-defined approach to the proposal, and also its slightly lower overall cost,” wrote Bauer in a report. His assessment is the process was conducted fairly and objectively.
“In addition, the city will be retaining an external firm to conduct an independent review of the procurement process,” wrote Bauer.
The cost of the sandbag removal and disposal is expected to be covered by the province through Emergency Management B.C., but any costs not covered will be paid by the city.