The Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) behind the runway rehabilitation project at the Lloydminster Municipal Airport is clawing back some of its funding. The city has been advised that $45,039.50 is no longer eligible for reimbursement because the latest consultant for the project is not the lowest qualified bid as per the original request for proposal.

The original RFP was submitted in 2013 with the lowest qualified bid by the firm Genivar for &54,075.50. Now known as WSP Global, the firm submitted a report recommending a full-depth reconstruction of the runway, taxiway and apron surface structures for a total cost of more than $9.6 million.

The airport’s general manager tried unsuccessfully to contact the firm and decided to seek a new contractor. It was found upon review of the project that WSP’s recommendations were inconsistent with the RFP and showed a change in the project’s scope of work. It also came to light that WSP Global was facing criminal charges in relation to a bid-rigging scheme in the city of Gatineau.

The city ultimately went with a proposal submitted by Integrated Airport Systems Ltd., saving for than $4.8 million. IASL originally not selected during the application process for their bid of $99,115 when compared to Genivar’s. Transport Canada has been clear that funding will only be reimbursed for the lowest bid, For not choosing the lowest bidder, a little more than $45K is owed by the city.

Councillor Jonathon Torresan disputes the fairness of penalizing the city and takes issue with the money owed back to the program.

“When I see that we are now having to pay back (more than) forty-three thousand dollars because we ended up going with a different consultant that was not the lowest bidder, because the fact that consultant was one way or another fired off that job for not meeting city standards any more, I don’t exactly think that it’s fair to penalize the city,” says Torresan.

Forcing the city to choose the lowest bidder is also an issue for him. Torresan believes that the lowest-costing consultant doesn’t always result in a higher quality product, and thinks it may end up with higher project costs, maintenance fees or other hidden expenses.

“We should be selecting our consultants based on qualification, not based on who is the lowest cost, because you’re going to end up with, potentially, a product you’re not happy with, or they have to be let go, or their bid did not include a full understanding of the scope, and you’re going to end up with a scenario like this. Which I believe is totally unfair, and we should look at trying to recapture the forty-thousand dollars plus that we’re having to send back.”

Torresan cedes that at the end of the day, the firm didn’t meet city standards and didn’t understand the project scope. Mayor Gerald Aalbers admits he wasn’t aware of this ongoing matter while he was lobbying for ACAP funding. Aalbers believes in taking a diplomatic approach over the monies owed.

“It’s, in the big picture, a very small amount of money. But it’s still a chunk of money that the taxpayers are responsible for. I’ll be conveying that message back to both of our MPs,” says Aalbers, noting that a federal election is on the horizon.

“We’ll see what happens at the end of October, and see whether we chat with the new minister or the old minister of transportation, whoever that may be, and pick it up.

“We’re not going to make a trip to Ottawa for forty-five thousand dollars, to try and not likely get money on this one. This is going to be a tough one, but we’ll try and have a discussion and at least raise the face.”

Aalbers suspects that money owed to the Ministry of Transportation will likely come from the city’s capital reserves.