The mayhem at April 30th's Council meeting also included the approval of the Bragg Creek Connect committee’s $165,000 proposal to study high speed internet for the entire County. The County’s portion would be $82,500, dependent on the remainder coming from a provincial grant.
Two months ago, Council asked Administration to investigate options for improving internet servicing throughout the County and to report back in the fall, at the latest. Council would then determine which, if any, options should be pursued and direct Administration to proceed accordingly.
In a highly irregular process, Council was presented with a recommendation from Administration to have the Bragg Creek Connect committee’s proposal replace the County’s ongoing work. Proposals from community groups, such as the Bragg Creek Connect committee, normally go to the Governance & Priorities Committee, not to Council, for initial screening and consideration. Instead, the entire initiative has now been out-sourced based on a proposal from a small, self-selected group from one of the most difficult-to-serve communities in Rocky View.
The Bragg Creek Connect committee’s proposal includes the hiring of already-selected consultants. By approving the proposal, Council approved a single-source contract well beyond acceptable limits. This is in clear violation of the County’s procurement policy. That policy requires at least three quotes for all contracts over $10,000 and a public tendering process for those over $50,000. The policy is there to ensure that consultants paid from the public purse are selected in a transparent, accountable manner and will provide best value for money.
When questioned as to whether it was acceptable to allow for single source contracting, the CAO advised there were some exceptions that would allow for it. Those exceptions are: (1) the absence of a competitive marketplace; (2) specialized requirements; or (3) when sole-sourcing is economically advantageous. Interestingly, none of these reasons appear to apply to this situation. There are numerous consultants qualified to do the work; many municipalities are looking at doing something similar so it is not specialized; and, there was no evidence to support the economical advantage to using this group. We would have hoped for clearer leadership from the County’s new CAO.
Councillor Kamachi unwittingly highlighted the questionable speed with which this proposal came forward when he mentioned that he had just seen the consultants give a presentation. He then stated he had recommended the consultant to the Bragg Creek group. Kamachi’s comments also exposed the fact that once this proposal came forward, Administration was told to stop their work. When Wright asked who overruled Council’s direction and stopped Administration’s ongoing work, Boehlke arbitrarily shut down her questioning and told her to “behave” or risk being ejected from the council chambers.
As well as ignoring procurement policy, Council gave little consideration to the appropriateness of the work plan they approved. The majority on Council appear to think that going with the Bragg Creek Connect committee’s proposal will fast-track results. Nothing could be further from reality. Funding for their proposal is contingent on the approval of matching provincial grant money. All work has been put on hold until the grant decisions are made in September. When it was asked what would happen if the provincial grant was denied, no answer was given.
Hanson suggested having the two projects run concurrently. If the County’s ongoing work continued, Council would have an initial study identifying possible alternatives and their associated costs, as would the group from Bragg Creek. However, the majority on Council was not interested in considering that option and approved cancelling the County’s project in favour of sole sourcing the consultants recommended by the Bragg Creek Connect committee.
When did Rocky View decide it was a good idea to delegate so much authority without even assessing the qualifications of those to whom the authority has been delegated?