Marys­town land­lords dis­mayed of­fice space wasn’t ten­dered pub­licly

Town pressed for time to find lo­ca­tion for staff dur­ing town hall up­grades

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL HERRIDGE EN­VI­RON­MENT/CON­SER­VA­TION

Con­cerns have been raised about the process for find­ing tem­po­rary of­fice space to re­lo­cate staff while work is be­ing com­pleted on Marys­town’s town hall.

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 op- por­tu­nity 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.

PAUL HERRIDGE PHOTO

Ren­o­va­tions presently un­der­way on Marys­town’s town hall are ex­pected to take be­tween six to eight months.

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