And the contract goes to … the highest bidder

There's something stinky about Dawson's wastewater treatment plant, and it hasn't even been built. In the fall, Highways and Public Works put out a request for qualifications.

There’s something stinky about Dawson’s wastewater treatment plant, and it hasn’t even been built.

In the fall, Highways and Public Works put out a request for qualifications.

Five companies qualified for the bidding process.

But only two bid on the job—Whitehorse-based Ketza Construction Corp. and Corix Utilities, out of BC.

Ketza was turned down.

“We’re questioning the process,” said Ketza owner Peter Densmore, on Wednesday morning.

The local construction company did not meet the technical requirements, according to a letter of rejection received Thursday.

But there was no explanation given.

Ketza’s proposal was a fleshed-out version of what it proposed in the request for qualifications.

“According to that evaluation we met the requirements, or we wouldn’t have wasted money on the proposal,” said Densmore.

That decision will cost the government a lot of money.

Ketza’s bid to build the wastewater treatment facility came in at $16.5 million.

Corix bid $25 million.

Ketza spent six months and more than $100,000 preparing its bid for Public Works.

It included services from 17 different contractors and suppliers, said Densmore.

Ketza submitted a 125-page proposal. It didn’t receive a single call from the government on the package.

It was simply turned down.

“If they did have questions about the technology you’d think they’d have asked us,” said Densmore.

“We ask questions if we need clarifications,” said Public Works project manager Catherine Harwood on Wednesday morning.

But Public Works didn’t have questions for Ketza, she said.

“They did not meet the technical requirements threshold.”

If Ketza had, the company would have received an honorarium of $30,000 to help offset the cost of proposal, said Harwood.

Corix has not been awarded the contract, she added.

“It’s a huge, complex project and we want to make sure all the T’s are crossed, so there’s no decision yet.”

Harwood did not know Corix’s proposal was going to cost taxpayers $8.5 million more than Ketza’s.

It’s a two-stage proposal, said Harwood.

The technical side is reviewed first. If that passes, the financial package is opened.

“If you don’t reach the technical bar, we don’t even open the cost envelope.

“We don’t want to compromise the project just because something is so much cheaper.”

The Yukon government hired two Outside experts to evaluate the technical side of the bids, said Harwood.

A technical expert was hired from AECOM, a BC engineering company, and an evaluation expert was hired from BC Bid.

It’s a complex project, so Outside help was needed, said Harwood.

“This is a legacy for Dawson, and low capital cost is not the sole factor,” she said.

“The Yukon government is buying the best ideas from the best team for the best combo of O and M and capital costs.”

“The process appears flawed,” said Densmore.

“We’re questioning it because of the legitimacy of the technology we proposed and its successful history.”

Ketza’s water treatment option is popular.

“There are more than 700 of them working all over the world,” said Densmore. “And more than 100 of them are in the North.

“That’s why we chose this technology, because it has adapted to northern climates.”

Corix is planning to use vertically activated sludge technology.

Instead of standard lagoons, the company plans to build underground tanks.

“They are 15 feet in diameter and are made of marine-grade aluminum,” said Corix Utilities general manager Graeme Bethell, from Victoria.

This technology reduces construction and operating costs by about 45 per cent, he said.

Bethell admitted he was not “overly familiar with the technology.”

The company that builds the underground sewage facilities is based in Vancouver, he said.

“And they actually have a lot more experience internationally than they do in Canada.”

These types of systems have been used in Japan, added Bethell.

When Densmore learned Ketza’s proposal was rejected, he was “totally shocked.”

“We’ve gone over it six ways to breakfast in the last couple of weeks, and can’t figure out how we failed,” he said.

Ketza has requested a meeting with Public Works officials.

“We thought a meeting was set up for yesterday,” said Densmore.

“But we haven’t heard anything.”

“We want to have all the necessary people at the table,” said Harwood, who promised a meeting with Densmore soon.

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