Schedules not always in company’s control, contractors say
Awarded paving work in Happy Valley-Goose Bay late in the 2013 construction season, Penney Paving was not allowed to do the work this year. Instead, its contract was cancelled by the provincial government.
Yet other companies awarded late paving contracts have been allowed to complete the work this year. These are the provincial government’s “carry-over” contracts.
The Telegram looked into the decisions made for and against carry-overs, while looking into the much-discussed release of Humber Valley Paving from a contract for 80 kilometres of road construction on the Trans-Labrador Highway.
The work left unfinished there by Humber Valley Paving is being re-tendered. It will be packaged with the paving unfinished in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, given the cancelled Penney Paving contract.
Transportation Minister Nick McGrath says the province is trying to cut back on carry-overs, which is why the Penney Paving contract was spiked, for re-tendering.
On the other hand, other companies were given carry-overs.
The difference in treatment from one case to the next is simple, McGrath said.
In the case of Penney Paving in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the work was not started before the end of the paving season. In all other cases, the roadwork was at least underway, he said.
“There was no work started and no indication from Penney Paving that there would be anything initiated last year, so therefore we felt, well, part of the negotiation was that it would be done this year. So we mutually agreed to terminate that contract,” he said Wednesday.
As previously reported, a representative for Penney Paving said the company was prepared to complete the work in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this year, accepting a penalty for delay.
That offer was not accepted.
The contract was awarded to Penney late in the year, in August.
Speaking with The Telegram, on condition of anonymity, senior representatives for two other paving contractors suggested the timing should have been given more consideration.
They said scheduling is often an issue for contractors in the province, particularly with contracts awarded late in the summer.
“Numerous times, we’ve had carry-over projects, especially when it’s their problem,” one man said.
He alleged his company has previously been held up by inaccurate design work passed on by the province, improper measurements, delays in inspection of materials and delays in the movement of power poles, in cases where highway work reaches into towns and cities.
As for why he made no public complaints, he said he felt he would not be awarded contracts in future.
“It’s convenient to blame the contractor,” he said, on delays and cost increases.
Regarding cancellation of a contract, he said, “If a contract is tendered early — let’s just say that a contract is tendered in May and awarded to a guy in June — and if he’s too busy with other work, he didn’t get to his project for months, then I can see them cancelling it,” he said. “People just can’t hoard work.”
On the other hand, “calling work late, knowing it can’t be done, and then not locking (the contractor) in, then we’re also screwing him around,” he said.
As well, calling work late in the season can affect the availability and cost of both labour and materials, increasing prices, they said.
It all points to why the provincial government has moved this year for earlier tendering of roadwork.
“From an association perspective, the majority of our membership are quite happy with the early tendering progress that we’ve made this year and we’re certainly hoping that the government keeps moving forward to stay in tune with the industry and our construction season,” said Jim Organ with the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
He said the government has made a “concerted effort” to get the ball rolling, to avoid late contracts, troubles and carry-over requests on paving and road repair.
“Albeit there may be a little bit of a glitch any time you make a change, we think this is a very positive move on a go-forward basis and certainly we’re counting on the government to continue their early tendering endeavours.”
He would not speak to any individual contracts or companies.
Tenders started to be released March 1 this year and are now about 85 per cent issued, McGrath said, adding the rest should be out in the next couple of weeks.
“Normally we would probably just be starting now to release tenders and it would run late into June or July and August,” he said.
“So we’re well ahead of the game this year.”