By Trevor Busch
Progress on the town’s arena dressing rooms addition project has stalled following the rejection by town council of all bids received which exceeded the estimated budget.
Originally set to be discussed in open session at town council’s April 13 meeting, following a motion put forward by Coun. Joe Strojwas, council voted unanimously to direct discussion of the issue from open council to the closed session portion of the meeting.
At that meeting (April 13) following closed session, council voted to reject all three of the proposals received in response to the request for proposals for the arena dressing room addition project, on the basis that one submission was not compliant with the Request for Proposals (RFP), and all three exceeded the budget, and that council direct administration to revise the RFP to streamline the process and re-advertise the RFP as soon as possible. Mayor Henk De Vlieger declared a pecuniary interest and left council chambers for the duration of the closed session discussion and vote.
Council’s 2015 capital budget includes development of new dressing rooms at Taber’s Community Centre ice arena. The project consists of two dressing rooms, a referee dressing room, and washrooms and showers to service the new player and referee dressing rooms.
An RFP package was developed in February by an RFP evaluation team consisting of Rob Cressman, Wendy Meerveld, Aline Holmen, and Trent Smith. The RFP was posted on March 4, and three submissions were received prior to the RFP closing on April 2.
Of the three submissions, Venture Holdings’ submission was deemed to be non-qualifying, while two others exceeded the approved 2015 capital budget. The Venture Holdings bid was disqualified after the RFP evaluation team obtained legal advice recommending rejection of the bid, as the firm’s proposal did not provide some of the mandatory information required in the proposal instructions.
The two approved bids for the project — both significantly exceeding the 2015 capital budget allocation for the project — came from Silver Ridge Construction for $722,700, and MidWest Design and Construction for $687,536.
Council’s approved 2015 capital budget includes $450,000 for the addition of two new dressing rooms and a referee’s dressing room at the Taber Arena.
Prior to council’s vote, no exception under the FOIP Act was stated verbally by Strojwas for moving discussion of the agenda item to the closed session portion of the April 13 meeting, although in council’s request for decision on the issue, administration had stated council “may consider” moving into closed session, based on the FOIP Act, Sec. 16, Disclosure harmful to business interests of the third party, or FOIP Act, Sec. 24, Advice from officials.
Under guidelines laid down by Alberta Municipal Affairs, as an elected body, municipal councils should avoid conducting business in-camera, including discussion of difficult topics such as budget deliberations, capital expenditures, tax recoveries, salary ranges or hiring of additional municipal staff, bylaw amendments, subdivision proposals, and “any contentious issues such as sensitive local issues”.
Section 197 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) states that councils and council committees must conduct their meetings in public unless the matter to be discussed is within one of the exceptions to disclosure in Division 2 of Part 1 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act (Sec. 16-29). These limited exceptions for discussion include third party business interests (Sec. 16), third party personal privacy (Sec. 17), individual or public safety (Sec. 18-19), law enforcement (Sec. 20), intergovernmental relations (Sec. 21-24), and economic or other interests (Sec. 25-29).
The MGA sets out clear requirements for municipal councils to conduct their business openly, except in very limited and specific circumstances. According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, the powers of a municipal council are balanced by councils’ accountability to the citizens who elect them: “It is therefore essential that citizens are allowed to take an active interest in the development and direction of our local governments and express views to their locally elected representatives”.