The CDN-NDG borough council awarded a 5-year, $22M snow removal contract at the last meeting before the Nov. 3 election. The current contract ends Nov. 15.
CMS Entrepreneurs Généraux, the same company that provided the service in past winters, was the only bidder.
The vote was passed by a majority of council, but NDG councillor Peter McQueen remained highly sceptical of the bidding process and voted against it.
Earlier in the day, Projet Montreal election candidates held a press conference to raise their concerns. ”Awarding a contract of this magnitude during a general election makes no sense,” said borough mayor candidate Michael Simkin. He wants the next elected council to review the process in order to increase competition.
The snow removal contract represents 6 % of the borough budget, added McQueen, and for the first year it’s a million-dollar hike compared to previous years.
McQueen and residents raised many questions. The documentation presented to council members didn’t persuade McQueen to support the awarding of the contract. “It smells bad,” he said.
The NDG councillor called the situation “undemocratic” and predicted that it will be “hard to live with” for the next four years.
Mayor Lionel Perez took an opportunity at the last council meeting before the election to highlight his accomplishments as mayor of CDN-NDG during the past nine months, including efforts to increase democratic transparency and make elected officials more accountable, as well as his work presiding over the contract review commission.
Perez said that important facts were being left out of Projet Montreal’s arguments. The previous contract was adopted in 2010 and was subject to yearly inflation, but increased costs of fuel and more frequent operations need to be reflected in the cost of the services, he said.
Perez explained that even if the contract exceeds by 7.5% the estimates made by the services, it is still far less than what the Plateau pays per linear meter of snow removal in their new seven-year snow removal contract. Perez was involved in the contract awarding process and proposed different scenarios to increase competitiveness, and admits that ending up with only one bidder is a great cause for concern. But, he said, going ahead with a five-year contract means the borough is saving $400,000 compared to a three-year contract. The cost of adopting a one-year contract would be prohibitive. He charged that the unfounded accusations by Projet Montreal are unduly fuelling cynicism in residents.
Throughout the public question period and the question period reserved for council members, Lionel Perez, Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand and the borough and public works directors answered all questions in great detail, wanting to leave no stone unturned.
But McQueen didn’t budge. He was challenged to give the details of specific situations or circumstances that he could take to the authorities, and was criticized for throwing out accusations of fraud and illegal activities based strictly on suppositions.
Other citizens came up with questions on legalities, ethics and appearance of conflicts of interest related to the snow removal contract. Perez said that the rule is to accept the lowest bid even if is the only one received, as long as it respects all criteria and is deemed to conform with and respect the city’s and borough’s policies.
In this particular case, since there was only one bidder, supplementary auditing was done by the legal services. There is no conflict of interest either, Perez continued, because there weren’t two bidders involved.
As far as Law 8 is concerned, the services have yet to come up with rules to be in a position to disqualify any bidder, Perez replied to CDN district candidate Magda Popeanu.
“The population expects more than vague accusations from council members,” said Perez.
Rotrand added that going back to tender would take at least three months, leaving the borough without snow removal service until next winter. “It seems to me that you guys are grasping for electoral issues to demarcate you from other parties running in the election, but you haven’t done your homework and it’s blowing up in your face. You’re not doing a service for the people of the borough if you vote for no snow removal in NDG,” he said.
Marie Cicchini | email@example.com
Photo : Marie Cicchini