FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John City Council voted against a recommendation by staff to award the architectural designs of the City’s new RCMP detachment to a sole source, and to instead open the contract up for competitive bids.
Council was presented with a report at Tuesday’s meeting from General Manager of Community Services Wally Ferris recommending council vote in favour of awarding the contract of designing the new building to Vancouver-based KMBR Architects Planners for $1.3 million. The firm did a study last Spring recommending the City have a new detachment built instead of renovating the existing building, which was constructed over 30 years ago.
Acting City Manager David Joy said that despite a concern over sole-sourcing, he supported the recommendation based on the time that would be saved in getting the project started, which he said was backed up by an independent opinion. When asked about the reason to sole-source, Ferris reaffirmed to council the time savings the project would experience, as well as giving the project some consistency.
Ferris explained that there are no local qualified architects with experience in designing a police detachment, and added that the city’s policy allows sole-sourcing during procurement when it is in the City’s best interest. He also explained that if the City were to put the contract out in a Request for Proposals, KMBR’s team that is currently available to start working on the project might not be available once the contract is awarded.
“To work on an RCMP building, you would have had to have gone through those experiences before,” said Ferris. “When we do an environmental scan out there, there’s no local architects for that service. It was to achieve efficiencies through that process.”
Ferris also stated in his report that putting the contract to an RFP would likely result in similar bids coming in. Councillors Gord Klassen and Lilia Hansen expressed a concern with the sole-sourcing of the contract. Klassen said he wanted the contract go through the RFP process to see if, in fact, there are other local firms that would be qualified and available to bid on the project. Councillor Trevor Bolin also expressed a preference for the competitive process, but did mention that KMBR is a highly-respected architectural firm.
Mayor Lori Ackerman also asked staff about getting funding from the federal government for the project. Council previously voted to have staff meet with MP Bob Zimmer on advice to getting federal funds. Ferris said that during those discussions, his guidance was for the City to write a letter to the government about them partnering with the City in getting the new facility built.
Ferris explained that grants or partnership opportunities with the feds would be available for specific portions of the building’s construction, giving the example of getting a grant towards installing geothermal heating or cooling.
“We would apply for a grant along those processes, not an overall RCMP build project. These types of headquarters, the template is somewhat set with the province and how that is funded. For the federal government to jump in and do that, they’d be doing it across the country and setting a precedent.”
Ackerman said that since federal officers work at the detachment, the government should have some responsibility for the project. Council voted in favour of putting the contract out for competitive bids, and also voted to have Mayor Ackerman write a letter to the Minister responsible about getting federal grants for the project.