Sudbury council puts off road pilot project

Could be re-tendered next year

A seemingly simple decision about an asphalt remediation program spurred a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Staff was recommending council approve a $1.4 million pilot project that could transform pothole-patching and road work, and could ease the burden on Sudbury’s beleaguered streets.

In the end, council voted to kill the project.

“Funding provided for the HIR pilot project includes $700,000 from additional federal gas tax and $811,000 in funding from the 2020 budget deliberations,” a staff report indicated. “The proposed culvert replacement will be funded with approximately $160,000 from the approved capital project account designated for culvert work.”

But councillors had many questions about the nature of the pilot project, which is intended to study the efficacy of hot in-place asphalt recycling.

The discussion got underway when Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan asked council to delay awarding the contract until next year. That would allow staff to retool the request for proposals and since it is so late in the season, he said there is a good chance not much work will get done in 2020.

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier agreed, and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh asked about the impacts of delaying for a season.

Staff said the city is bound to award the contract as it was tendered. Were the city to withdraw the contract and tender it again next year, there would need to be substantive changes. If there were no changes made to the RFP, staff said it would undermine the fairness of the bidding process and could place the city “in legal risk.”

The city received three bids for the pilot project – from Pioneer Construction, Belanger Construction and Interpaving. Pioneer, the low bidder at more than $2.1 million, was still about $550,000 higher than the city estimated.

Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said it seemed like the deal got overly complicated “and now there’s reluctance” on the part of construction companies that may have chosen not to bid on the project.

“We believe the four components we put together is a true representation of the type of work we would tender in the future,” Tony Cecutti, the city’s GM of growth and infrastructure, said. “To observe whether this technology is successful, we felt it was important to combine the pieces as you’re seeing in this tender document. We are seeing a tender that represents what we would do in the future.”

Keeping in mind the nature of a pilot project – to observe and assess, and to chart the way forward – Cecutti said staff chose the locations for the project in order to observe various aspects of the job, including curb and culvert work.

The roadways chosen for the pilot project included sections of Bancroft Drive, Radar Road, The Kingsway and Municipal Road 35.

Mayor Brian Bigger said despite the drawbacks of the RFP, he reminded his peers the city could save 30 per cent with the hot in-place recycling program, and he said it is good for the environment, since it recycles materials.

But in the end, council voted 9-3 in favour of cancelling the contract and re-tendering the RFP next year. Only Bigger, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo and McIntosh voted against cancellation. Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Twitter: @marykkeown

705 674 5271 ext. 505235