Local firm denied border work

IDNUMBER 200808150004
PUBLICATION: The Windsor Star
DATE: 2008.08.15
EDITION: Final
SECTION: News
PAGE: A1 / FRONT
ILLUSTRATION: Colour Photo: Tyler Brownbridge, Windsor Star / LOST WORK:MP Brian Masse left is joined Thursday by Andrew Mantha from the survey firm Verhaegan Stubberfield Hartley Brewer Bezaire Inc. during a news conference. Masse and Mantha are upset that a land survey contract went to a London firm over a local firm. ;
BYLINE: Doug Williamson
SOURCE: Windsor Star
WORD COUNT: 625

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Local firm denied border work

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A Windsor firm which lost out on a provincial contract worth up to $300,000 to survey properties being bought along the proposed new border route is crying foul, saying it believes its bid was just as qualified and probably less expensive than the winning proposal by a London company.

"We were basically window dressing -- it's very much the old boy, crony club," said Roy Simone, co-owner of Verhaegen Stubberfield Hartley Brewer Bezaire Inc., the largest land surveyor west of London. "The London firm has done a lot of MTO (Ministry of Transportation) work, and that worked to their advantage," Simone said Thursday.

$300,000 CAP

The ministry, which has an office in London, chose Callon Dietz Inc. to carry out the work under a request for proposal bid that caps survey fees at $300,000 between July 2008 and 2010, Simone said.

Called a retainer assignment, it allows the winning firm to carry out all surveys from Highway 401 to the border in that period for up to $300,000 and if necessary, a new RFP can be issued when it expires.

Simone said he was told that there were proposals from two Windsor firms, two London firms and one from Toronto.

There was no comment from the Detroit River International Crossing study group.

It is co-ordinating construction of a binational route connecting Highway 401 with a new bridge to Detroit and adjacent freeways.

A similar retainer issued in April 2006 which expired last month was also awarded to the London firm.

Although there is a price cap, Simone said an out-of-town company will end up costing more because disbursements are extra. Disbursements, paid by MTO, cover a variety of expenses including travel from London to Windsor. Disbursements also include obtaining surveying notes and records already held by the local survey firm covering the proposed route. The London firm will have to buy copies from the Windsor company as it re-establishes boundaries along the route, Simone said.

"We're already here, we're on the ground," said co-owner Andrew Mantha. "I've got people off work or on shortened hours, and we're ready to go. We've done all the work here. It just makes sense, but I guess sense went out the window." The Windsor company employs 21, some of whom are on layoff, he said.

No one from Callon Dietz was available for comment Thursday.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Transportation could not be immediately reached.

MP Brian Masse (NDP--Windsor West) held a news conference along with company officials, saying he fears local firms could be shut out of more work as the border project moves along. "We literally now have people laid off here in Windsor ... that are actually discriminated against in the bidding process," Masse said. "The bidding process is unacceptable.

"There should be some preferential treatment" to local firms bidding for work on the border project, Masse said. "It doesn't have to all be tied to that, but at the very least it shouldn't work against them."

Officials have said the border route alone, not including a new bridge to Detroit, will provide 15,000 construction jobs.

"We have people driving down here and taking jobs from Windsorites because the process doesn't even lend it to be on equal footing," Masse said.

Simone said his company, which has survey records going back 150 years in Windsor, firmly believed it would win. "I was floored when we didn't get it," he said. "We were completely dumbfounded."

Simone said that unlike criteria for a request for quotation which places 50 per cent of the weighting on cost, and 50 per cent on management and technical issues, the ministry's reassignment proposal call only gives 10 per cent weighting to cost. Fifty per cent is for the company's corporate performance rating, based on past dealings with the ministry, and 40 per cent is for management and technical issues, Simone said, adding whether a firm is local should carry some favourable weight in assessing a bid.

"Being a local surveyor does not factor in," he said. "We're extremely frustrated."