Electrical Contractor Policy Examined

The City moved closer to a rationalizaton of electrical contractor services they hire but it wasn’t without some static and a couple of sparks.

It all happened regarding a motion put forth by Councillor Brian Swanson requesting an Request for Proposal (RFP) be issued for electrical contract work for the City.

An RFP is where companies are requested to submit a proposal along with costing when it comes to providing a certain good and service which is often on-going and is not tendered per say as a single larger project or task is.

Moose Jaw City Hall - Photo Courtesy Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

Moose Jaw City Hall - Photo Courtesy Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

The motion came out of concerns raised to Councillor Swanson from the City’s former electrical contractor with no real explaination.

Councillor Swanson sought issuing an RFP to allow a more transparent, open and accountable process for the provision of electrical services and also to allow other firms the opportunity to get the City’s contract.

“(There) was no call for tenders or requests for services,” he said, adding there was a need to allow “the opportunity for numerous electrical companies in town to get a chance at City money.”

City manager Jim Puffalt said an RFP at the present time was not advisable as there needed to be an analysis of the electrical services provided the City and if it may be done cheaper in-house or by hiring a journeyman electrician.

Looking at hiring and doing tasks in house has already been done by the City when they hired a new city solicitor to potentially save on contracted legal fees and an engineer hired to perform design work which was previously done by consultants.

Puffalt said an analysis of the $400,000 in contracted electrical work in 2018 was needed in order to break down the costs to see if the labour costs were significant enough to hire an electrician.

He said the review may show it is not cheaper to do the electrical work in-house but Administration needed to “do some more work on the bills and where it all comes out to in the end.”

Asked by Councillor Crystal Froese how the present electrical contractor hired fits into the purchasing policy Puffalt said when it came to electrial work “almost every department is doing their own thing,”

“We are trying to analyze what needs to be done and if it is possible to do everything with one RFP or to do it in-house…we are kiind of disjointed in our purchasing…until we analyze the bills I cannot give you the answers (which is better).”

Councillor Heather Eby agreed with the rationale to do a review but said there were also time constraints on completing the analysis."

“I don’t want to wait another $400,000,” Councillor Eby stated.

In order to allow the review Mayor Fraser Tolmie said although he supported the motion tabling it might be better.

“If we were to defeat this motion we will not be able to revive it. If we were to table it we can bring it back at budget,” Mayor Tolmie stated.

Under the City’s procedural bylaw a defeated motion cannot be re-voted on for a period of one year.

Councillor Swanson pointed out the issue of hiring in-house electrical staff had been proposed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) a few years back and the motion was defeated with no Council member voting for it.

The size of the work going out with no purchasing policy was a concern for Couincillor Swanson.

“I’m quite surprised with the $400,000 number that is a lot of money going out with no purchasing policy.”

Regarding the in-house option Councillor Swanson he was philosophically opposed to the idea but he was looking for “a framework that is an open and level (framework).”

Councillor Scott McMann asked how could the purchasing policy not be followed? And if it was not being followed immediate steps needed to be taken to ensure it was followed.

Puffalt stated there was some disjoining in how electrical contractors were hired but Administration was following the purchasing policy.

Councillor Swanson said there were problems with how electrical work was being awarded.

“Part of the situation here is these electrical services do not reach a certain total but in total they are substantial,” he said.

Despite the push to plug in an RFP immediately Mayor Tolmie said the review was necessary.

“The dilemna we are dealing with now is it better to go in-house and are there cost savings to the citizens of Moose Jaw?”

In a 4 - 3 vote the motion was tabled until after the review with Mayor Tolmie, Councillors Chris Warren, Heather Eby and Crystal Froese in favour with Councillors Brian Swanson, Scott McMann and Dawn Luhning opposed.

The review is expected to be presented to Budget Committee to make a decision on in the late Fall.

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