Hay River engineers challenge bid awarded to southern company

A Hay River-based engineering company might have a second shot at a work contract it lost to a southern company. Town council has decided to review a contract it awarded to Alberta-based Associated Engineering after Maskwa Engineering appealed to the town over a water and sewer contract.

Representatives from Maskwa Engineering were at council’s committee of the whole meeting  Feb. 13 to determine why the company was rated poorly and lost the contract to Associated Engineering of Alberta.

“We wanted to understand where we fell short,” said Maskwa principal Clell Crook. “We feel we were underscored.”

Crook, along with engineering managers Chris Robinson and Nick Bevington, presented council with a series of slides and letters of praise to back up their argument.

Crook said once Maskwa had received the results of the request for proposals (RFP) for the project, the company followed a process and evaluated its proposal against the request.

“We feel that that was grounds for our appeal,” said Bevington.

Crook said he could not understand how a large company from the south could outscore a Northern-based business on the local component.

Council’s committee was told that Associated Engineering was granted a nine out of 10 on the local component, a number that Coun. Bernie Langille later noted was unrealistic.

Maskwa’s score on the local component was not made available.

The tender calls for the selected company to oversee the engineering aspects of replacement of water mains and sewer systems on Riverview Drive and Wright Crescent, and the reconstruction of the roads and drainage afterwards.

The RFP was made public on Dec. 23 and the Maskwa team immediately jumped on the chance to work for the town.

Proposals were received until Jan. 13 and were evaluated by the town’s SAO Mike Richardson and civil technologist Dustin Dewar on Jan. 25.

The recommendation to go ahead with Associated Engineering was made to council on Jan. 30. Langille was strongly opposed to the recommendation but was outvoted by other council members.

Crook said the company thought that its proposal followed the RFP’s terms exactly, and that if more information had been needed they should have been contacted.

Crook and his team found out that the contract had been awarded to Associated Engineering for approximately $15,000 more than the price proposed in Maskwa’s bid. The total price tag for Associated Engineering was $161,236 over Maskwa’s $146,440.

“It’s a little disheartening to my team when I’m being asked how come we can’t work in the community that our head office is in,” said Crook.

Once the presentation concluded and the floor was opened to questions and comments at last week’s meeting, Langille expressed his disagreement in the decision to award the contract to a southern company, and seemed confused about how the decision was made in the first place.

He said he would like to review the proposals to see if the correct decision was made.

“It seems to me that Maskwa has been harshly judged,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Mike Maher suggested that council look into whether the contract had been signed by Associated and put a hold on the document if it were still not finalized.

However, when asked what the process would be for an appeal, May-Britt Hetesi, who was filling in for an absent Richardson, said she was unaware of any appeal process established by the town.

Schofield said the town will be looking at having an appeal period after a contract has been awarded.

“This is shedding light on a grey area which could be problematic,” he said.

Schofield confirmed Monday that the contract had not been signed and that a hold had been placed on the document until council could further discuss the situation.

“Some work had been initialized but that did not hinder our ability to put a stop on the contract until council can meet to review the situation,” said Schofield.

“We need to look into why a contract was awarded to Associated and not a local company. We should be helping local jobs and the local economy. It does concern us and we are looking into it.”

The request for proposals when issued stated the contract “will be awarded to the proponent who is responsible and whose proposal provides the best potential value to the town.

“The determination of best potential value shall be at the sole discretion of the town.”

Dewer added that Associated Engineering, although based in Alberta, has an office in Yellowknife, which was taken into account during the review process.