The municipality plans to call for proposals for comprehensive engineering services to replace the current system of engaging consultants on a piecemeal basis.
Council approved a recommendation to issue a request for proposals at the Jan. 5 meeting after discussing a staff report from CAO Bill White, public works director Brian Hansen and treasurer Gordon Duff.
The report notes the town has secured consulting services from several engineering firms over the years with projects often allocated based on historical work in a particular area.
“For example, one firm conducted most of the work regarding the Palmerston Waste Water Treatment Plant because they were involved with its original design. Another firm did much of the work in Harriston due to their involvement with the lagoon system,” the report notes.
“It is necessary to formalize a consulting arrangement with one or more engineering firms that the town may call upon ‘as and when required.’ The intent is to be able to call upon one or more firms that ‘best fit’ the town’s needs for the service required, reduce project turnaround by retaining one or more firms, and decrease and control project costs.”
The report recommended the proposals be reviewed by a technical committee consisting of the CAO, treasurer, public works director, water foreman, sewer foreman, and public works committee chair. It also recommended scoring criteria allow selection without interviews unless the committee elects to interview two or three firms due to close scoring.
“The approach recommended is a ‘two envelope’ proposal system. Envelope one would outline the firm’s background, qualifications of the primary contact, diversity of the team and methodology of approach,” with those factors representing 70 per cent of the scoring criteria the report explains.
A second envelope would contain pricing and would only be opened for firms that achieve at least 50% of the 70 points available.
“This approach is recommended by engineering associations to place a focus on the technical side of the RFP rather than on cost alone,” the report explains.
White told council the option of hiring a town engineer is often raised when consulting amounts are discussed in this fashion.
However, the report notes, a town engineer would require support staff, equipment and office space to provide the expertise available in diversified firms.
Deputy mayor Ron Faulkner expressed concern the plan might limit the town’s ability to hire the best firm for a particular job.
“I just want to get my personal doubts satisfied that we’re going to have the option of getting the best firm that we need to get the job done, because I tell you there’s been some jobs in the past that I question that we got the best job done,” said Faulkner.
However, Mayor George Bridge pointed out “we don’t go out to RFP on everything now so we don’t know if we’re getting best value.”
Bridge said he feels by spreading out its limited engineering work, the town isn’t always at the top of any firm’s priority list.
“If you’re a small player and they’ve got a bigger player, you’re kind of on the bottom all the time,” said Bridge. “We really want someone that the staff can work well with.”
Councillor Jean Anderson asked, with the town spending about $450,000 on engineering consulting annually, if they couldn’t afford to hire its own engineer.
White estimated it would cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to set up an engineering department and then, “as they got busier and busier, the day-to-day work would take over and in five years you would have an engineer recommending you hire a consultant to do a lot of the stuff they’re already doing anyway.”
Councillor Dave Turton said council and staff have been discussing a move of this nature for four or five years and “I think it’s our next step to try and save the taxpayers some money.”
Council unanimously approved a recommendation to proceed with request for proposals as outlined in the report.