Prince Albert city council has delayed awarding a two-year city auction services contract because the company recommended by city administration is not based out of Prince Albert.
A motion at the Dec. 10 city council meeting called for McDougall Auctioneers Ltd. to receive a two-year contract, plus a one-year option, to conduct all auction services for the city. However, several city councillors were unhappy to see the contract go to an outside bidder. McDougall is headquartered in Regina, but has four additional locations around the province. The contract was scheduled for 2019-20.
“We’re going to save $7,800 annually … going outside of the city instead of going local,” Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards said during the meeting. “(Local businesses) have local employees. They spend money in our city. We get a little bit of savings, for sure, but $7,800, in the big picture, it could knock a couple of jobs out locally and I’m not in favour of that.”
Edwards was the first councillor to raise concerns about the contract, but not the only one. Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp withdrew the original motion and moved to have the matter sent back for further consideration.
“I just wanted administration to have time to think about the impact to the city (and) to the companies that exist locally,” Lennox-Zepp said during the meeting. “(It’s) just to give administration a moment to consider this new issue.”
A total of four companies put in a bid for the contract, with two coming from Prince Albert. Each company was graded on a point system for everything from price to experience to professionalism. Administration awarded McDougall’s proposal 93 points, well ahead of second place Schmalz Auctions of Prince Albert, who currently holds the contract. Since administration did not approve the new contract, Schamlz will conduct the next city auction, which will be held in January 2019.
The decision to reject the McDougall tender was not without its critics. Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky was the strongest opponent of the decision. He said the city needs to be careful about how it handles public tenders, and worried the decision would have negative repercussions for Prince Albert businesses bidding on tenders outside the city.
“I don’t want to see us getting into this process where we say, ‘we just want P.A.’ “ Nowoselsky argued. “The people doing the contracts have to sharpen their pencils because a lot of our businesses do work in Melfort, up north, or wherever. That’s why we have a public tendering process.”
The City of Prince Albert holds an annual auction every spring that includes everything from used office equipment to police items, like bicycles. In 2018, the city started a monthly auction for vehicles brought in via the new city-owned impound lot.
Auction sales have risen steadily since 2014, when the city recorded $23,000 worth of sales. In 2017, city auctions generated $131,000 in sales.
In an interview following the Dec. 10 meeting, Mayor Greg Dionne said he understood concerns about causing damage to local businesses, but added that there were other concerns as well.
“That’s a slippery slope because at the end of the day we’ve got to take care of the taxpayer’s dollars,” Dionne said. “I always question how can an outside firm be cheaper than an inside firm? These people have to travel from Regina, set up, do the advertising, do the sale, and you would think that our local guys would be cheaper than that … but sometimes it happens. (They think,) ‘well, it’s a city contract. They can pay.’ Then they up their fee a little and, in this case, they didn’t win.”