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Asphalt plant monopoly opposed by council

Whistler willing to pay more to avoid business with Alpine Paving



Whistler has spent millions on asphalt over the years but it appears there has been no competitive bidding process to secure the work until this year.

That has left Alpine Paving, the only local producer of asphalt, with a virtual monopoly on the business.

That appears to fly in the face of the municipal tendering policy which states:

"Purchases over $100,000 require a public tender... A combination of local, regional and national newspaper advertising will be used to locate interested parties. Opportunities will also be posted on the municipal website and electronic procurement sites such as BC Bid."

The policy also states that purchases under $100,000 require quotes from a minimum of three suppliers unless it is a low value purchase.

Despite repeated requests for an explanation on why asphalt wasn't tendered in the past, municipal hall staff remained mum this week.

Under the municipality's procurement policy it is allowed to negotiate with a sole source if there are no other providers available and no substitute.

The lack of a competitive process is cause for concern for Cheakamus Crossing resident Tim Koshul.

"Do we not do that (go out for public tender) on a lot of things that we spend money on in this town?" he asked at the end of the Thursday May 26 council meeting where council received three news bids on asphalt.

"Why don't we revisit that?"

This year, however, was different because the plant, which used to operate beside the town dump, while in the same location is now operating beside Whistler's newest neighbourhood - Cheakamus Crossing.

As such, the once under-the-radar operation has now become front-page news, as it fights to keep operating, even though council says it is in contravention of the bylaw.

In the first tender this year, Alpine was the only company to submit a bid, this despite the fact that municipal staff contacted other companies, alerting them to the tender. The asphalt was to be made at the Whistler plant. Council rejected the bid.

One month later, Alpine submitted another price at a 30 per cent premium to bring the asphalt from its Squamish plant. Council rejected that too and demanded a second public tender, which specifically stated the asphalt could not be produced with the municipal boundary.

Three companies bid on the work. Alpine's was the lowest quote, and its quote was more than $100,000 lower than its two previous quotes at $673,000.

"Using the same scope of work, the same price would have been $792,000... clearly demonstrating the benefit of the public tender process," said Joe Paul in his presentation to council.

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