A small local company that has hauled Parks Canada’s garbage for the last 13 years says the Town of Banff has killed their business by agreeing to take over the job.
A council meeting on Monday (March 14) was fraught with emotion as the owners of Wilderness Waste Management begged council to have nothing to do with the contract.
Owners Laird Elliott and Mike Skrine argued it was “unethical and wrong” for municipal government to compete against a small private company.
Elliott said the company is more than willing to accept their fate if a third party outbid them in a competitive bid process, rather than Parks sole-sourcing to the Town.
“I’m shocked and appalled. You are part of our demise. This is not fair competition,” said a very emotional Elliott.
“I don’t mind if BFI puts me out of business or Parks Canada decides to go in-house, but it’s not a level playing field when our own Town employees are working behind my back.”
Elliott said the decision means seven local workers will be out of a job as of April 1. Some will be forced to sell their homes and others will have to move out of the community.
“This impacts lives. When our tax dollars are used to compete against us, I get really upset,” he said.
“It’s stealing our jobs. This deal appears to be brokered in back rooms, government to government.”
After lengthy discussion, council on a 6-1 vote made the difficult decision to direct administration to enter into an agreement of up to five years (with a five-year extension clause) to provide solid waste and janitorial services to Parks Canada in Banff National Park.
Councillors indicated there was a net benefit to local ratepayers. As a result of this agreement, the increase in revenue for town coffers is around $332,200 for 2011.
Coun. Chip Olver was the only one to vote against the agreement.
In addition, council also gave the okay to purchase three vehicles, including two fully equipped side-loading garbage trucks and one utility vehicle at a cost of $343,000.
The annual budget to hire two full-time staff and two part-time positions, including benefits, will be approximately $158,400.
Town of Banff officials say they would never have bid against Wilderness Waste Management had the contract gone out to tender.
But, they say, Parks Canada approached them several months ago to investigate how waste and recycling removal could be integrated in the municipal program.
Paul Godfrey, the Town of Banff’s operations manager, said the municipality’s waste removal technology would also allow Parks to more accurately measure waste collected.
“This is an excellent example of the benefits of inter-governmental cooperation as well as identifying and pursuing alternative revenue options for the town,” he said.
Parks Canada officials say Wilderness Waste Management still has the opportunity to challenge the contract through the federal government’s electronic tendering service.
“It will be open for a challenge for 15 days, not a bid because we are entering into a contract with the Town of Banff,” said Rose Marino, Parks Canada’s contract officer.
“The challenge will be looked at by Ottawa. If the challenge is accepted by Ottawa, it goes out to a full-blown tender and the Town can bid.”
John Rose, Banff National Park’s asset manager, said Parks Canada is mandated to get the best value for Canadian taxpayers, but he said the contract was increasing every year.
He said the agency also considered looking at doing the collection in-house, but in the end, did not want to duplicate services given the Town was already running a “polished operation”.
During the heartfelt discussion, Rose said to Elliott and Skrine that he “has full empathy for what this decision means for you.
“But we can’t subsidize a company or show favouritism for a company.
“There’s only been one bid each time this goes out. We want to be open and fair across the board. It’s been hard to demonstrate that when we only have one bid.”
Elliott said Wilderness Waste Management would challenge the contract, but indicated it seemed a bit of sham given Parks has indicated the Town is their preferred choice.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said.