ylmyeq · 2021-09-10

Think local when awarding tenders, firm tells town

Should local companies receive preferential treatment when bidding on tenders for municipal work?

Harold and Patricia Huestis, owners of P&H Sweepline Services Inc., think so.

The couple, who run a company that provides power sweeping, line marking and sign installation, are miffed because they recently lost a two year contract to supply durable pavement markings for the Town of Innisfil.

Six companies bid on the tender, with submissions ranging from the lowest bid of $62,782.80 to $96,337.50. P&H quoted $66,888.65 and was the second lowest bid.

The Huestis’ complained to their councillor, Peter Kmet, after the tender was awarded on March 25 to a Kitchener company.

As a result, Innisfil council has been asked to consider a motion by Kmet, who has requested staff prepare a report to study the “feasibility of including a ‘local preference’ provision in the Town’s purchasing policy.”

If Innisfil had a local preference clause, local companies would have a better chance of getting the job, even if they didn’t submit the lowest bid.

The Stroud couple has operated their business for 12 years. Their client list is lengthy and large construction contractors from across southern Ontario often seek the firm out.

“Every time I bid on stuff here and I’m really close, I never get it,” Harold Huestis says. “I’ve spoken to other business people in Innisfil who feel the same way. I employ a dozen local people, we all shop here and I get my trucks fixed in Innisfil. We all joined the new YMCA, too.”

His wife and business partner, Patricia says, “We’re outraged. They’re not doing the right thing.”

She’s upset that references supplied to the Town weren’t called.

“They didn’t go to next level,” she says. “It’s like they blew us off like we’re nobodies.”

When it comes to awarding tenders, “it’s generally been the rule of thumb to go with the lowest bid,” Mayor Brian Jackson says.

But Jackson is open to giving local companies an edge, especially in a recession.

“With the motion to look at local preference, in today’s economy, it’s something we’d like to accomplish,” he says. “It’s worthy of investigating if we have local taxpayers who are competitive and meet all other criteria to give them consideration.”

The town already has a policy of not necessarily accepting the lowest bid on every project. Other criteria come into play, such as a company’s past performance.

On the Town of Innisfil’s request for tender form, a clause states, “the Corporation of the Town of Innisfil … reserves the right to accept other than the lowest bid.”

“We should support our local businesses within reason,” Kmet says. “P&H are local and they put money back into the community. If it was me, I would have looked at (the tender) a little closer, but it’s not for me to do (town staff’s) job, but to respect their decision.”

The Huestis’ also have a supporter in Elmer Spring, owner of Spring Tree Farms on Innisfil Beach Road.

“Work should be kept in house. When I was chasing work at the new rec complex and Town Hall, we couldn’t get the work,” Spring says. “I sent an e-mail to all of council and the Chamber of Commerce. I asked what happened. I thought our Town’s motto was ‘Live together, Work together, Play together’. It appears that they’re only following the ‘Live together’ part. We’re passing our competitors all the time on the road – they are coming into town and we’re heading out.”

Ironically, P&H had the lowest bid on a job not long ago in another municipality about a half hour away from Innisfil.

“We lost the job to a local firm,” Harold Huestis says. “I didn’t mind. I thought that was good the local guy got the work. I think they have the option to do that here.”