Nothing dirty about garbage contract, says Teslin

The Village of Teslin denies playing favourites when it awarded a garbage-hauling contract last year.

The Village of Teslin denies playing favourites when it awarded a garbage-hauling contract last year.

The municipality is being sued by the Teslin Tlingit Council’s development corporation, which accuses the village of, among other things, bid-shopping and giving preferential treatment to a company with family ties to a councillor.

But these allegations are baseless, the village counters in its statement of defence.

A judge will ultimately decide whether this is a story of sleazy contracting practices, or of a First Nation using its legal clout to muscle its way into a lucrative contract.

The seeds of the spat were laid last year, when the village began planning to convert its landfill into a transfer station, where garbage would be periodically collected and hauled to Whitehorse.

To provide the garbage bins and to haul the waste, the village enlisted the help of a Whitehorse-based company called General Waste Management, which is owned by the First Nation’s development corporation, Tle’nax T’awei Industrial Limited Partnership.

But this deal only lasted five months, because in March of 2009 the village awarded a five-year garbage-hauling contract to a Teslin-based company, Deadman Creek Enterprises.

Council knew its decision would be controversial. The minutes of that meeting note that the village’s chief administrator cautioned council “to consider any political ramifications before they make their decision.”

Sure enough, the First Nation cried foul soon afterwards. It claims it was unfair this long-term contract was “covertly” sole-sourced, rather than put out for competitive bidding. It’s asking for $127,000 in damages.

The First Nation notes the village has a policy of tendering any work worth more than $10,000.

But this policy is just a guideline, the village counters. And this same rule was earlier bent to sole-source work to the First Nation’s garbage-hauling firm, the village notes.

There was nothing secret about the awarding of the contract, as it was done at a public meeting, the village states.

However, the charge of secrecy seems largely spurred by how the village asked Deadman Creek Enterprises to provide a quote for its hauling services in February of 2009. General Waste, which was hauling garbage for Teslin at the time, was not approached.

But there’s nothing unfair about this, the village counters, because it had issued an earlier request for proposals for garbage-related services in January of 2008 – six months before it hired General Waste – and, at that time, Deadman Enterprises was the only company to respond.

Allegations of bid-shopping are also unfounded, the village states. Bid-shopping is when an organization rigs the competitive bidding process by revealing to a preferred company the lowest bid, allowing them to match or undercut it.

When Deadman Creek was asked to provide a quote for its services, it offered, in a February 16 letter, to haul garbage for $750 per load. But, in the end, the company matched the lower price on offer from General Waste, of $670 per load.

The village also denies there was any conflict of interest when awarding the contract to Deadman Enterprises.

While the lawsuit never mentions any councillor by name, Councillor Stacey Hassard is the son of Robert Hassard, owner of Deadman Creek.

Stacey Hassard abstained from the vote to award the garbage contract to Deadman Creek, according to the March 23 minutes.

However, Stacey Hassard appears to have voted in earlier decisions that led up to the fallout with General Waste.

On February 23, council decided to cancel its arrangement with General Waste to rent garbage bins for $500 per month. Instead, it sole-sourced two bins from Deadman Creek for $24,999.

The price is one penny shy of having to comply with the Yukon government’s tendering policy. The village needed to comply with the territory’s rules if it wanted to tap the federal gas-tax fund.

Stacey Hassard was present at this meeting. If he abstained during this vote, it’s not noted in the minutes.

Hassard won’t comment on the matter because it is before the courts.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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