The Boiler Files – Part 3

Research by Kevin Gelinas, Authored by Todd Williams and Wayne Lapaire

Town of Turner Valley administration have misrepresented facts to Council and the public regarding the Dr. Lander Pool boiler replacement. They have failed to follow their own procurement policy. They have not complied with the inter-provincial trade agreement, New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA). Contractors were not treated in a fair and open manner during the selection process. Tax payers are saddled with additional cost due to the irregularities noted in the information received from a Freedom Of Information Protocol (FOIP) request. Now let’s look at the final important pieces of the pool boiler replacement.

  1. Did Administration tell Council and the Public the truth about the project in the Capital Project Update July 16, 2018? (Part 1)
  2. What was the procurement process used and why was the lowest bidder not chosen? (Part 2)
  3. Were all bidders treated in the same manner throughout the procurement process? (Part 2)
  4. Who was accountable for the faulty installation that caused a delay in the pool opening date for 2018?
  5. Why did the replacement of one boiler require a four boiler solution?

Did the selected contractor make the design recommendations and then install the equipment correctly? After reviewing the bid documentation obtained from a FOIP request it is clear that only one bidder suggested installing 4 boilers and 4 heat exchangers. The design of the system was not specified for the procurement process or created by a qualified Engineer. Here is an excerpt from an email exchange on August 28, 2018:

We asked for:

Engineered drawings or documentation regarding the boiler replacement including engineer recommendations

Mr. Beaton’s Reply:

Engineered construction drawings were only supplied after the project was awarded. Drawings will need to be forwarded if requested.

We asked twice for the documentation from engineers, once in the FOIP request and again in an email. Somehow, administration thinks it is acceptable to withhold the information and wait for continued requests for the same information. This is simply unacceptable behavior from Mr. Beaton and the town administration. Tax Payers spent over $100,000.00 on these boilers. Why are we required to make three requests including a formal FOIP request for the information? What is administration hiding? Is a lack of oversight and proper design the reason the pool was late opening?

When the question of a late pool opening was posed to administration in a Council Meeting, the response was along the lines that there were problems with some of the valves associated with the boiler. Sadly, the new Council Meeting video recording system is not functioning, so the exact wording used by administration cannot be verified. Was this indeed the truth or was there a more embarrassing cause for the delay? We suggest that the CAO personally probe this question. We will gladly compare notes with him after his investigation.

In the Capital Project update administration indicated that the contractors were selected through a referral from Alberta Association of Recreation and Facility Personnel. If there was a referral where is the documentation? Our FOIP request was for all the procurement documentation. The referral of selected contractors was not provided. Was A&S even on the referred list? What credentials does A&S have regarding pool boiler design and installation. The email signature on the A&S Mechanical email indicates it came from the “Residential Coordinator”. It is unclear that there was any real effort on the part of Mr. Beaton to confirm the qualifications A&S Mechanical had to complete this type of boiler work. We are not blaming A&S here. They are a business trying to make a living in a tough economic environment. It is Town administrations responsibility to document that they have hired competent contractors to complete the projects. Further, administration should make errors and mistakes public. No one expects perfection at all times, however, there is an expectation that administration should take full accountability for mistakes. Did the selection of A&S contribute to the late opening of the pool? It seems likely but with the limited documentation we have it is hard to pin down.

Although we do not have the expertise to determine if a four boiler solution is far superior to a one or two boiler solution, what we do know is only one bidder offered a four boiler option and there is no documentation provided for why that option would be preferred on a long term basis rather than a lower cost one or two boiler option. We also note that the A&S budget estimate does not indicate that the 4 boilers are High Efficiency or Mid Efficiency models.

Our new Council was elected almost a year ago to make changes to an obviously broken administration and to reduce the cost of this Municipal Government. We have heard repeatedly from the Mayor and some of his Councilors that they have 4 years to make change. At the current pace, it will take them at least that long. With the current approach it is doubtful they will achieve any substantive change at all.

When it comes to holding administration accountable for their behavior it appears that we have a Mayor and a few Councillors who are clearly under the influence of the single most powerful “Special Interest Group” in Turner Valley – the town staff. Town staff has an interest in staying employed in high paying jobs with little apparent concern for spending tax dollars. There is no end to the money they can force from residents’ wallets. The sad part is that some members of this Special Interest Group live in other towns and therefore do not share any of the economic burden that they inflict on residents.

The irregularities in this one project call into question all the projects done by the Town. From $60,000 sole sourced paving projects to $400,000 Lift Station buildings in Seclusion Valley and a water infiltration gallery that is not operating near the design capacity. The tax dollars keep flowing while some Council members dither and prevent others from pursuing their electoral promises.

Our suggestions for improving the current situation are as follows:

  1. The new CAO needs to read the riot act to all staff regarding being open, transparent, and accountable in reporting to Council and the public. This means that Council should be presented with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
  2. Administration needs to ensure proper documentation of their actions is taken in all dealings involving the spending of tax dollars.
  3. Council needs to direct administration that the culture of unlimited available taxes needs to be replaced with a culture that questions the spending of every tax dollar.
  4. The culture that the public does not need to know, and that producing information for public consumption is a waste of valuable administration time needs to be replaced with a culture that recognizes that administration staff exist solely to provide required services to taxpayers. Citizens are not a burdensome noise to be dismissed as quickly as possible, and with minimum effort.
  5. Immediate focus (not at some time over the next four years) should be on regaining confidence of citizens in an administration that is obviously: open, transparent and accountable.

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