Bonnyville Town Council discussed different ways they could support local business. Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski explained to Council that a concern from the community was brought to his attention regarding the percentage difference Council uses in the bid process when awarding projects to contractors. According to the Town’s policy, local contractors will be given preference if the bid is within 10 percent.
The issue came up when determining which contractor to award the pool regrouting project to. Two bids were put in for the project, one from a local company, Ashley Fine Floors and the other from JAC Inc. JAC Inc had a bid that was more than 10 percent lower than Ashley Fine Floors, so after some discussion from Council and Mayor Sobolewski it was awarded to JAC Inc. Mayor Sobolewski and Councillor John Irwin were opposed to the vote.
The issue was brought up again at the Meet the Mayor evening, held February 1st, hosted by the Bonnyville & District Chamber of Commerce. One business owner, Kelso Brennan (Thinkwerx & 310-SIGN) wondered if the Town was able to change its policy in any way to allow for more contracts being awarded to local businesses. Mayor Sobolewski had a lengthy discussion with the business owners who attended the meeting and then took the discussion to Council.
“One of the biggest things that came out of the Meet the Mayor, particularly with the tighter time (economically), was to ensure that we somehow provide an ability for our local economy, local contractors, and local sub-trades that somehow we ensure that these projects stay in our community and region. Rather than, it being exported to Calgary or Edmonton,” Mayor Sobolewski discussed with Council the idea of examining the policy regarding local preference.”We wanted to have an open discussion and allow administration some direction as to what we would like to do.”
The Town must abide by TILMA, the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement, but there may be ways to include more local work. The problem with just extending the percentage of cost difference from ten percent to a larger number like 15 percent, is that as the project cost goes up, so does the number within the percentage. For example, 15 percent of $6,000 is only $900, but the same percent in $600,000 is $90,000 which makes for a large amount of money to swallow.
The Mayor and Council recognized that model would not be preferable, it was suggested to allow for a sliding scale, when the project is low in cost, the percentage is higher and as the project increases in price the percentage closes. A suggestion was made by Councillor Jim Cheverie to have a Local Incentive in the contract, that the local services must be used. “If companies are bidding from outside the local area, within the bid documents we stipulate that they have to use local hotels, It gives an incentive to our local contractors who don’t need hotel rooms.” It was discussed the Local Incentive would include the mandatory use of local sub-contractors, by developing a list of approved sub-contractors that must be used.
Council sent their discussion to Town Administration to research other communities and come back with a policy that includes a sliding scale model for the percentage of difference for Council to discuss further. Administration anticipates a six-week time period to research and come back with a first draft of the policy.