‘How could we have an oversight like this?’

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Petrolia taxpayers are out nearly $5,300 because an email from a potential bidder for a three-ton compact excavator was overlooked.

In February, council approved the purchase of a brand new Kubota compact excavator at a cost of $49,735 from Southpoint Equipment in Reece’s Corners.
But it came to light at Monday’s council meeting that another bid from a local company was overlooked.

Director of Operations Mike Thompson said Advantage Farm Equipment in Wyoming also bid on the compact excavator and it’s machine, a Bobcat, met the specifications and was the lowest price at $ 44,463. That’s $5,272 less than the machine council already approved.

Councillor Ross O’Hara was surprised by the issue. “How could we have an oversight like this … There must be some explanation of this,” he said.
Thompson told council the bids for the excavator were submitted by email and “the one was missed (on email) by me, it was a mistake.”

Thompson then got a call from the dealership.

“The gentleman called me about a month ago, he couldn’t understand why his quote wasn’t on the report. At the time when he asked I didn’t know what he was talking about. But then I looked back at my emails, and it was an oversight on my part.”

Thompson brought “the unfortunate oversight” back to council Monday.

Councillor Wade Deighton, who has returned from a three-month leave of absence, asked if the town would be “violating any rules or laws … Even though it was an oversight” if they rescinded the motion.

“I think no matter what council decides, it’s an awkward situation,” said Mayor Brad Loosley.

Councillor Marty Souch agreed “We’re in a no-win situation,” he said during the virtual meeting.

We’re going to be in trouble either way to accept it from (Southpoint) and move forward. And hope it doesn’t happen again,” said Souch.

Deighton suggested since Southpoint had already ordered the equipment for the town, the original purchase should move forward.

He added it was unfortunate Advantage’s “email was lost in translation. “I guess that’s kind of why we should be using a closed system or at least a sealed bid system, to get away from this type of thing.”

The town does have a bylaw which governs how purchases are made – a procurement bylaw.

It requires any purchase over $7,500 to be made through a competitive bid. Petrolia’s policy allows directors and the CAO to ask for at least three bids from different companies or call for proposals publicly for goods between $25,000 and $50,000. Anything over $50,000 has to be tendered with strict procedures on when and how the bids are opened. In this case, the bids for the unit which was budgeted for $50,000, were requested by email and went directly to the director of operations. There was no requirement for the bids to be opened publicly because it was a formal quotation not a tender.

O’Hara was one of the people opposed to moving ahead with the purchase.

“I agree, it was our mistake in the town. But the fact it is still, around $5,000 difference of taxpayers money,” O’Hara said adding the mistake shouldn’t damage the “good relationship” with Southpoint.