Why was there no debate around the council table on Monday night when our elected officials decided to spend an extra $263,000 in city cash on repairs to a provincially owned road?
At the last general meeting, council approved the recommended tender for construction plans along Victoria Avenue, from First Street to 18th Street. As the Manitoba government is responsible for Victoria Avenue, the city is co-ordinating with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation to replace pavement along the affected 17 blocks and add sidewalk accessibility ramps.
There are also minor improvements planned for intersections at Sixth Street and 13th Street, with the intention to lengthen the left-turn bays in order to improve the efficiency of the intersections.
There were two bids made for the construction work. Zenith Paving Inc. offered to do the work for $4.84 million, with the city’s portion for the underground work costing $1.35 million from that total.
The bid from Maple Leaf Construction Ltd., on the other hand, came in somewhat higher at $4.89 million, however, the city’s portion would have been much less at $1.08 million.
Essentially, the second tender would have been $263,000 less for the city. But MIT recommended the lowest overall bid — Zenith’s — which is the one council approved.
As the city only budgeted for $1.153 million, council also approved an additional $297,000 be expended from the Water Distribution Reserve to help fund the project.
We are not necessarily quibbling with the decision to go with a lower overall bid — we can imagine that the province might have been rather insistent that the city agree with its choice based on construction timetables and whatnot. And we are glad to see the province moving forward with its plans to fix our crumbling Victoria Avenue.
But we are aghast at the fact that no one around the council table questioned why Brandon had to foot a higher percentage of the bill in taking the lower overall bid. The choice was simply rubber stamped.
In fact, there was more conversation around the council table when councillors debated plans to chop $50,000 from Renaissance Brandon funding in the 2013 budget last year.
Where was that deference for the Brandon taxpayer on Monday? Why did not one single councillor object to the fact that the chosen tender would actually cost the city $263,000 more than the other option? No voice around that table even made a perfunctory comment about the choices before them, nor questioned why Brandon should simply tag along with the province’s plan, to the cost of the city’s coffers.
It took an inquisitive Brandon Sun reporter asking basic questions to Herb Mahood, the regional operations director for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, to find out that taking the lowest bid is part of a provincial policy.
Even if councillors’ hands were tied, why didn’t they say so? There were no excuses made for the decision — not even a lame one — and hardly any comment except a show of hands. At the end of that council meeting, no one would have been any wiser as to the council’s reasoning. In fact, we’re still rather stumped at council’s thoughts on the matter, because there was simply no discussion whatsoever.
These are the people who are trying to portray themselves as worthy guardians of the public purse?
We had hoped that members of this council had finally learned to be careful when making decisions with taxpayer money, or at least a bit more prudent and up front with their constituents.
However, we are once again left wondering if this municipal government has the chops to actually do what it was elected to do — govern responsibly.