We should have our own engineering department
This is the second of a series of editorials on the forthcom- ing municipal election in November. This time, we propose that our towns get their own engineering departments. Not every one of them, obviously, but that they mandate the MRC’s to form small engineering services.
Don’t you think that somehow and too many times we, the taxpayers, are at the mercy of a bunch of –politeness and libel laws obliging- uber incompetents?
Case in point. Stanstead will be stuck for years with the bill (what’s a couple of million?) for the brand new well in Beebe. The reason: bright guys from an engineering firm who applied the then Quebec standard for arsenic, while the American ones were already in place, mandated lower levels. We missed the mark by one tenth! Let’s be honest, if this was in Chibougamau who would care? Our wells are less than a couple of yards from the USA and the water board is called the International Water company, which supplies water to both Quebec and Vermont! Then again, who cares? Nobody, it seems. The same highly qualified firms (hard to keep track of their name and ownership changes) still will get contracts with Stanstead and other towns.
Now in the real world, the one where people usually only have one type of money, their own, firms like this would be placed on the forever never to do business with them again.
But this is an altogether different world, with tons of money. Lack some, print some. Or print a higher amount on the tax bill at lower levels of government. The taxpayer doesn’t care, well he does, but he doesn’t have a choice. It’s pay or nothing else.
Would a publicly owned engineering service have prevented this mess? As we pay our taxes for useless wells, we’ll never know. But it should have given notice to the engineering firms that somebody as competent as they are was watching the money flow down the drain, not even literally!
Small contracts could be sourced in-house; there is enough work to keep a couple of engineers working year round. They could even tackle bigger work, hiring extra help to give a hand once in a while.
The once in a while is the important part. If all work was to be done by civil servants, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an engineer confessing to Judge Charbonneau) to figure out the end result. If there is one thing that civil servants soon forget, it is how to spend money. Or rather how to spend it, depends on the point of view, taxpayers being blind, as is well known. Only the blind cannot see how money can disappear so fast, the greatest magical act on earth: Taxes going up in smoke or down useless wells!
But the main way that we will save money if we have our engineers working for us, is that they will not take for granted what the private firms will propose. This should save more than what they would cost.
We ask you to raise this issue with the candidates in the next election.