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Council refuses to do business with Alpine Paving

Asphalt could cost Whistler more money



In order not to do business with Alpine Paving, council is willing to pay more money for Whistler's asphalt this year.

Roughly $120,000 more.

Though Alpine Paving, the only local producer of asphalt, submitted the lowest bid for the work in a contract that stipulated the asphalt could not come from its Whistler plant, council was unwilling to award it half a million dollars in work.

The municipal paving contract wasn't awarded to any company at a special council meeting Thursday, May 26, leaving the timeline for Whistler's annual repaving work up in the air for the time being.

"My comfort level of dealing with an entity who is presently ignoring a cease and desist order makes me somewhat uncomfortable," explained Councillor Eckhard Zeidler at the meeting.

Three more members of council, those same ones who voted to move ahead with legal proceedings to shut down Alpine Paving's Cheakamus Crossing asphalt plant, voted with him.

"I've always felt that you have to be very careful about who you do business with," said Councillor Ted Milner, pointing out that the Whistler plant is still operating, despite being asked to stop by council.

Legal proceedings are underway and a petition to declare the plant in contravention of the zoning bylaw cannot be heard in the B.C. Supreme Court until September.

On the other side of the debate, Councillors Chris Quinlan, Tom Thomson and Mayor Ken Melamed (who participated via a patchy connection from Beijiing where he is on official business), voted to award the contract to the lowest bidder.

"It's a premium that you're putting on the taxpayers of Whistler," said Quinlan.

He then, speaking directly to Zeidler, said:

"Look them in their eyes and tell them it's worth that."

Zeidler, under his breath, looked out at the roughly 50-member audience and said it was worth it.

Thomson said he was looking at the issue as a whole, for the entire community and not just a portion, namely the new residents at Cheakamus Crossing, who moved into the development beside the asphalt plant last year.

"I look at this as someone who is a prudent shopper," he said.

"As a prudent shopper... I will be supporting the staff recommendation that we purchase from Alpine Paving."

This is Alpine Paving's third quote for the work.

On April 5, the work was to cost $635,000 if it was to come from the Whistler plant. Alpine was the only company to submit a bid in that tendering process.

One month later, the company put forward a price of $825,000, or at a 30 per cent premium, to bring the asphalt from Squamish.

When the work went out to tender again, as per council's instruction, Alpine's price was $673,000 from the Squamish plant.

"Every time it goes back to tender, we save money," said Cheakamus Crossing resident Tim Koshul who was at the meeting.

"It makes you scratch your head for sure."

He also questioned the broader council policy of putting work out to tender. Alpine traditionally has not had to bid on the Whistler work.

"Do we not do that on a lot of things that we spend money on in this town?" asked Koshul.

"Why don't we revisit that?"

Now council has asked staff, as suggested by Zeidler, to look at the legalities of the municipal tendering law.

"Because there's some sensitivity around this, I just want to make sure that we're on side and if council makes a decision to award it to someone other than the lowest bidder, whether we can get ourselves offside on the law on that."

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Jan Jansen told council that the earliest that could be heard in the court would be the end of June.

In the meantime, the municipal paving program is on hold. A decision likely won't be made for another month.

That, said Quinlan, is right at the beginning of Whistler's high season.

Roads, such as Blackcomb Way, are already under construction, with no timeline to repave.

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