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More buying power for staff

·4 min read

Municipal staff will not be waiting for the next council meeting anymore to hear if they can replace fire hydrants or get a good deal on catch basin cleaning.

With requisite bylaw changes to come, a new procurement policy was passed at Sept. 29’s meeting 5-2 with Ward 3 councilors Martin Vink and Mike Sholdice opposed.

The new policy is more in line with nieghbours in Middlesex county, raising the price of items staff can get on their own if already approved as general operating expenses or capital items. Anything up to $10,000 can now be purchased by anyone in a department.

Rules still in place include going to council if requests for tender or proposals are over $75,000, or anything over $50,000 needs direct negotiation or has an irregular result. The CAO has purchasing power for services ot items below that level. Staff can get three quotes on their own for budgeted items between $10,000-25,000 with sign-off from the department heads.

Anything that goes over budget would have to come back to council.

An impassioned description of what municipal workers have to deal with on a regular basis came from public works manager Greg Storms.

“I like to get things done and we like to get things fixed. We can’t have machines sitting not working because we’ve got to come to council and ask for permission over $5,000. We certainly can’t have fire hydrants that can’t be replaced until we come back to council,” said Storm.

Coun. Vink felt too much power was being given to staff. Coun. Sholdice did not think there was enough information in the policy report.

“I’m simply asking for a comparison chart of the status quo compared to the chart we are being asked to approve here tonight. I don’t believe there is any rush to this and would like to request a deferral until we receive this information. I’m not really sure why it wasn’t included in the report. You may think I’m being a little paranoid about this but this is an issue that councilor Carruthers took very seriously, and I want to ensure transparency remains at the forefront with this council,” said Sholdice.

Mayor Allan Mayhew and Deputy Mayor Marigay Wilkins described working at this policy for a long time, and gave kudos to staff for the work they put in to draw this policy up.

Wilkins said the report was detailed and appreciated the inclusion of a comprehensive vendor report card to keep track of how well service providors perform. She added she believed there was a balance with efficiency and transparency.

Mayor Mayhew described the power given to staff as conservative. He also liked ending what he described as a burdensome process for local businesses on tenders for low cost items and services.

“If I’m concerned about anything in municipal government today, it’s how slow things move,” said Mayhew.

This is the first update to the procurement policy since 2014.

“We’ve raised that sometimes in the past with the mayor and deputy mayor on how we sometimes struggle with the existing procurement policy because we sometimes are unable to do work or move forward with a project as quickly as those providing the service would like and we sometimes miss out on opportunities for savings,” said CAO Jill Bellchamber-Glazier.

Storms gave a specific recent example of cost savings that were lost with catch basin cleaning. “Typically we would do half in the municipality one year and then half the following year. When the contractor arrived this year his price was about $4,000 to do half the catch basins in the municipality. He approached us at that point and said, ‘while I’m here I can do the whole thing and I’ll give you a 50 percent discount on the second half,’ which would have saved the municipality $2,500,” described Storms.

The bump for the lowest cost quick purchasing power from $5,000 to $10,000 would have covered this offer.

CAO Bellchamber-Glazier added the update was also a chance to consider climate change and renewable materials during procurement in this policy.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner

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