A new maintenance management contract for the Rideau Canal corridor has been awarded to a contracting company from the Hamilton area, raising concerns among NCC board members before they eventually approved it.
The five-year contract was heard and discussed at an NCC public board of directors meeting Nov. 21. Awarded to Cedar Springs Landscaping Group Ltd., a contracting company located in Ancaster, Ont., the contract outlines maintenance duties for the corridor, such as landscape and winter maintenance, waste management and the NCC’s annual tulip program.
According to NCC rules, with an estimated value of about $6 million, the contract had to be approved by its board members.
Since 1996, Ottawa-based landscaping company, TerraPro Corp., has maintained and managed the corridor. After nearly two decades of their work, some board members questioned the decision to award the new contract to a company from outside the capital area.
“The business is the same whether you’re cutting grass and doing maintenance in Hamilton or Ottawa,” said board member Jason Sordi at the meeting. “The issue is that they might not have those links to the business community here that they might have elsewhere.”
Sordi also questioned Cedar Springs’ ability to do the work for the price to be paid, noting the significantly lower bidding amount posted by the company for the contract. On Sept. 4, the NCC posted a request for proposal for the contract on the electronic-tendering service website MERX. After several companies submitted bids, the NCC held a bidders’ conference, conducted site visitations and held a question-and-answer period for the companies. Three companies, including TerraPro, were then considered and their bidding prices revealed.
Cedar Springs submitted the lowest bid. There was a bidding difference of more than $2.4 million between themselves and the next company.
“We want to be sure and have some level of comfort that the price discrepancy isn’t also going to reflect some kind of difference in quality,” Sordi added. “I’m just always weary when there’s that much of a gap.”
But according to Marc Corriveau, the NCC’s director of urban lands and transportation, the gap is due to an annual financial adjustment of three per cent, equal to the consumer price index. Over a five-year period he explained, the CPI would create the approximate $2.4-million gap.
Jack Wieske, president of Cedar Springs, says the discrepancy is no reflection of his company’s performance. Adding that the company will be opening a new location in the city next year, he says he’s confident Cedar Springs will be just as successful in Ottawa.
“We have contracts all over the province,” says Wieske. “We make connections with suppliers and other businesses wherever we go, we’ve never had a problem. If I thought there was going to be an issue with dealing with suppliers, subcontractors or whatever else we needed, I wouldn’t have gotten into this situation.”
Although maintenance of the corridor will be one of its biggest projects, Wieske and his company aren’t new to the business; they’ve worked in Belleville, Kingston and done projects for the Ontario Power Generation, (formerly known as Ontario Hydro). Wieske says the next step is to expand Cedar Springs.
“We’ve gotten to a point where we’ve been looking to start a second branch. Ottawa’s always been a really desirable location for us,” he explains.
Despite the concern raised at the NCC’s meeting, the board approved the contract.
“We are comfortable with the fact that this is a new contractor,” Corriveau said to board members. “We are confident with this contractor that he’ll do the work.”
The contract is set to begin next April 1.