Tar ponds cleanup moving into high gear with more than $100M in contracts to be awarded this year

By Doug macKenzie

Cape Breton Post
Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

Sydney - More than $100 million in contracts will be awarded in 2008 as the tar ponds cleanup shifts into full swing.

Vendors and suppliers gathered at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre Thursday for a Sydney Tar Ponds Agency briefing on project status, construction schedules, forthcoming tenders and construction requirements. The agency held a similar meeting in Port Hawkesbury, Wednesday. "We want to put information on the street of what type of work is coming up," said agency president Frank Potter. "Contractors will have a chance to prepare and be more aware of the type of work we’re talking about. That’s one part of it, giving information so they understand what the real nuts and bolts of the components are.

"The other part of it, and the reason we have the Cape Breton Partnership here, is we’re trying to encourage partnering here. Some of the contractors here might reach out to someone else they can form a partnership with to bid on a project. Some of the components are going to be smaller, but some are going to have larger dollar values that some of the contractors are not used to bidding on."

One of the parts of the bid process, which is designed to keep business at home, is a split in the evaluation of each bid where 85 per cent is weighted toward cost effectiveness and 15 per cent is focused on economic benefits to the community. "It’s an exercise that took a lot of time, that has a lot of unique features and has implications which go way beyond Cape Breton," said Dan White, economic benefits and planning coordinator with the agency. "We worked out some compromises and we have what I think is a pretty good package."

About the only negative issue during Thursday’s briefing was the information that bids with a price six per cent or more above the lowest compliant bid will be rejected immediately. "It was the first time I heard of it," said Carl Baillie, vice-president of Municipal Ready Mix. "We had sat down as a group of contractors and other businessmen in the area and we had worked with the tar ponds agency on an economic benefit package and as far as I knew it was set at the 85/15. This is the first I heard of a six per cent cap on the tender difference. Potentially, there could be an American company come in with a low tender and no local economic benefits in that tender and they would get the job as long as there was no local company within that six per cent."

White was not surprised by the feedback regarding the cap, but felt it wouldn’t greatly affect the bid process. "When you put an economic benefits package in place you’re really saying you’re going to try to use the project to drive economic development," said White. "The six per cent is there to ensure the project has a way it can control the inputs to that economic development process so that it doesn’t run the risk of incurring huge cost overruns for the economic benefits development that aren’t anticipated. "What we’ve seen to date and part of what influenced the six per cent is that the pricing is very competitive and very close in cases of projects to date so we’re thinking that may prevail and if it does then fundamentally what will happen is it will work out well as a policy."