The District of Sooke has extended its highway maintenance contract with Mainroad South Island Contracting to Sept. 20, 2019.
The contract is worth $252,378.79 per year, which includes new roads and an adjustment for inflation.
It may be the last time the contract is let, without going through a formal competition, council decided.
“I have a nagging ache in the back of my head of somebody getting something automatically without competing, without sharpening their pencils and that’s what bothers me,” said Coun. Rick Kasper.
Over the last several years council has wanted a better service agreement, but always decided to extend the existing contract.
The highway maintenance contract was awarded in October 2012. The contract was to expire on Dec. 31, 2014, but included an automatic renewal clause for up to three additional one-year terms.
In staff discussions with Mainroad, the company said it was willing to extend the existing contract for one year to Dec. 31, 2018 or Sept. 20, 2019, but would be reluctant to bid on a contract that would be beyond its contract with the province given the uncertainty of retaining that contract.
Coun. Kevin Pearson wonders if it’s time to change the overall approach to road maintenance in the district, considering the district now has its own parks department that could take up some of the work done by Mainroad.
“It’s one of the most expensive contracts we have in the district,” he said,.
It was a point well taken by acting chief administrative officer Brent Blackhall.
“The current contract is terrible. The service levels are not defined. This needs somebody with some knowledge of road contracts to help us write this thing. It’s not something that can be done in a month. It’s going to take some time.”
The problem is the lack of municipal staff to create a proposal that could go out to contractors, said Rob Howat, director of development services, who pushed for council to accept the contract.
“We do not have the ability to deal with the contract now. To try and rush through the contract from now to Dec. 31 wouldn’t be a fair assessment to get what we really want,” he said.
In the end, councillors decided to extend the contract with a suggestion to the next council to go to an open competition.