Snow job update

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Montreal’s Bombardier ‘chenilles’ are tough on trees but they get the sidewalks done. 
Three days ago I posted a story (Snow job, March 12/17) questioning this administration’s spending policies. One of my concerns was whether the town is getting its money’s worth from its snowclearing contractor, Transport André Leroux Inc.

As we dig out from under this latest 15-inch dump and navigate Hudson’s snow-choked streets, I’m sure I’m not the only curious resident.

According to comments made during one of last year’s council meetings, Leroux was the only bidder when the town made a call to tender. Rumour has it that Hudson’s longtime snowclearing contractor Gruenwald/SRS declined to tender a bid because it was getting out of the business. I can’t confirm that because SRS hasn’t returned my calls.

Something else bothers me about this story of Leroux being the sole bidder.

One of the results of the contracting scandal that ripped through this province was the creation of a new bid tendering procedure. All calls to tender of $100,000 and over must be posted on Quebec’s SEAO (systeme électronique d’appels d’offres) website. I’m accustomed to searching the SEAO site and I can find all of Hudson’s other calls to tender there, but I can’t find the call for snowclearing bids.

There could be a reason for this. The regulations governing this process allow contracts to be scindé, or sliced up to bring each tranche below that $100,000 barrier. It could be that the town tailored the terms of the contract so that nobody but Leroux was interested.

The record of disbursements tabled at the March council meeting tends to support that theory. We learned the town’s three-year contract (with a renewal option for two more) pays Leroux $399,500 a year plus taxes in four monthly instalments of $103,348.15. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that equals four payments of $99,875 plus PST and GST. (Taxes are not included in SEAO bids.)

There could be an explanation that has nothing to do with bringing each payment below $100,000. It’s also possible that I’m not asking SEAO the right questions. So I’ve asked the town for details of the contract and I’ll be more than happy to report whatever I learn.

My other concern is that the contract with Leroux has Hudson taxpayers paying for salt and sand even though Leroux has control over their usage. So far this winter, I’ve seen the contractor attempting to use salt and sand to correct his failure to remove snow quickly enough to prevent it from turning to ice during one of those wild temperature plunges.

March’s disbursement printout shows taxpayers have paid Leroux $87,000 for sand so far this winter. That’s over and above the $103,348.15 instalment.

In February, salt supplier Cargill’s bill had topped $155,000. As of the end of February, we added another $46,000.

As I pointed out, those of us who attended the February meeting will recall councillor Rob Goldenberg and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy both vowing to more closely monitor Leroux with regard to its use of salt.

I’m asking for the average total cost of snow removal, salt and sand over the previous three winters. Once the cost of sand and salt are added, are residents paying more for snowclearing this winter than they have over the past three winters?

Meanwhile we’re stuck with two more years of Leroux. Today’s performance didn’t instil confidence. At 8:30 their little sidewalk-clearing plow got stuck outside Sauve’s and the operator was obliged to call his boss to send the only truck doing the main streets to pull him out. He told us his machine was too small for the job when the snow is this deep. A tracked Bombardier sidewalk plough like they have in Montreal could whip through town and do the job in no time, he added. Clearly, this contract doesn’t include requirements for the right equipment.

At one point this morning, the Hudson fire department’s pumper and ladder truck attempted to make their way through crawling Main Road traffic to get to a call. From the way they were blasting their horns, they were having a tough time breaking through. Shouldn’t safe passage of emergency vehicles at all times be the minimum we demand of a snowclearing contractor?

This can’t wait for next winter or the municipal election, folks. This needs to be dealt with now.

 Correction: Since posting this I have learned the town’s public works department, not the town’s snowclearing contractor as has been the case in previous contracts. This leads to the following question: what services are covered in the current contract? 

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13 thoughts on “Snow job update

  1. Something smelled with the hiring of the present DG. . My olfactory senses tell me someone failed to scoop the poop. This snow job is just the latest in a series of things that make go hmmmm…

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  2. Véronique showed everyone on the website you mention the bidders. Ot is there. There were two bidders. This guy, and Roxboro snow removal. There was a 200,000$ difference between the bids.. 430,000$ (approx.) Vs. 630,000$ (approx.)

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  3. It’s very hard to know what’s going on w/o seeing the contract and performance expectations or penalties. My guess it was a non-issue with Gruenwald as performance was exemplary . This time we may have been hoisted on our own poorly or inadequately termed contract as we had never had need to resort to the fine print before. The contract should at the very least provide for a time standard for “back to normal” after a snow storm of scaled magnitude and , I guess, a bonus for any street signs left standing.

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  4. When tendering the devil is in the details and specifications.

    The lowest bidder’s only recourse to better profit is worse service, so if it’s not well specified.

    One of Montreal’s borough’s was cancelling a snow clearing contract so apparently even experience doesn’t isolate you from a crappy contractor.

    Signing a three year contract with two year renewal seems long for a new contractor, unless there’s an escape for unsatisfactory performance that is quantifiable.

    There’s more to running a town than signing contracts.

    When you’re spending $ 500K plus per year:

    Surely response times, maximum snow cover allowed, minimum plowed width during a storm and time to get a defined full plowed width after a storm would be bare minimums.

    We’ve got Public Security travelling around with cell phones, so we could use them to document problems with pictures of problem areas emailed to the contractor in real time and also to the town management to build a file of issues to discuss. There should be a weekly reporting meeting or conference call between the town and the contractor as well. FaceTime or Skype recorded and archived is better and cheaper than Face to Face.

    Gruenwald was good and honest, and we were blessed to have them. They were also well equipped, close by and pro-active. They were pushing banks back when it wasn’t snowing to make later winter easier. They had some smaller trucks where needed and even my favourite German vehicle a UniMog was used from time to time in really heavy winters.

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    1. We are at the mercy of the public bidding system – the lowest bidder gets the contract no matter their performance record. Just ask Valleyfield as this same contractor was awarded the snow removal contract there.

      You may wish to confer with public works as I believe there may be a weasel clause allowing the town to cancel the contract if we r dissatisfied with their overall performance. This may also mean our having to accept the next bidder – and roxboro did not fair much better when we had to award them the contract back in the 1990s.

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  5. Roxboro was the contractor responsible for plowing Highway 13, where some 300 trapped motorists spent the night in their cars waiting for the SQ to lean on the Ministry of Transport to prod Roxboro awake. Better to turn the contract over to our local driveway contractors. They’re already doing half the job.

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  6. Still if there is no recourse against our present plower it means the contract is poorly written. They must at least have to post a performance bond and base it on some pretty specific standards.

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  7. The municipal bidding removes some collusion chances at a great cost to quality and I believe costs more than doing it ourselves like we used to.

    We’re too small to run just a snow removal operation ourselves, at least I think we are. But we’d have better control of salt, sand and quality.

    Always wondered if we should buy and staff a small one of those things I call a Road-o-tiller, a beast machine that that grinds existing roads to granular, mixes a latex modifier into the grind and lays it right down for a beautiful compactable base to be rolled and paved. They did that on Hymus by my office a few years ago and it was really fast and has survived heavy truck traffic exceedingly well. Not a huge crew for a big job, an asphalt spreader and a roller. Run the summer paving crew with same winter plowing guys and you’ve almost got a year round work force. Don’t stop until everything is paved.

    Between the $10 million we need to spend on paving in the next decade and $5+ million to clear the roads, we’d have a decent small paving company town owned. We could even pave roads for our developers and bid on jobs for neighbouring towns.

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  8. With the emphasis on art and culture, we may as well rip up all the asphalt in town and go back to gravel. I remember when parts of town had gravel roads. Dusty as hell in summer, muddy the rest of the year but cheap and easy to resurface with a couple of loads of gravel and a grader.
    What’s that? Can’t tolerate a dirty car? Forget I said it.

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  9. Like it was said above- if we’re obliged to take the lowest bid, then that is why Transport Leroux got the contract. I fully agree with Brian, and perhaps over the years we’ve been so privileged to have Hans as the snow plow contract that we haven’t bothered to beef up the fine print, if any exists at all. Mostly everyone agrees that the service this year sucked. And it did.

    Here’s a cool fact that won’t cost you anything but cost me.. just back from the Chrysler dealer after they had a look at my Jeep- the green salt Hudson is using causes a green dust. That dust goes all underneath your car and on the exhaust. When it snows like the day before, and the underneath of your car rubs on the snow because the snow is so high, snow goes on the exhaust, melts, and causes neon green water droplets. Neon green liquid is usually a component in people’s cars. My coolant is purple BUT my 4×4 rear drive fluid is.. neon green. So in a panic took it to Jeep.. and they showed me how it is just Hudson’s vaporized green road salt/dust that came into contact with fresh snow and melted from the exhaust pipe. Save yourselves 100$.

    Liked by 2 people

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