May 17

City Budgets, City Contractors, Waste, and Frugality

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When it come’s to cities, why are ‘problematic’ contractors allowed to bid on new construction projects?  Is the ‘lowest bid’ the ‘best’ bid when delays and problematic workmanship come with the ‘lower’ price.  This myopic approach is damaging city budgets and the morale and pocketbooks of taxpayers (who are paying for this work in the first place).

At first glance, the answer seems obvious.  Lowest bid means the lowest cost to taxpayers.  In reality, however, the lowest bid is often much more expensive and troublesome than the other initial bids once ‘value’ is considered.  This is where the frugal mindset must take precedence over the ‘cheap’ view that lower price equals better value.

If I hire the ‘cheapest’ contractor and their work is problematic, I have exposed myself to a whole world of self-imposed (and city-wide) angst and added expense.  The inevitable “Yes, you did” and “No, I didn’t” will ensue; often times to very costly effect to the buyer (taxpayers).  Clearly, I would never hire a contractor like this, or worse, hire them again.  There is no ‘value’ here – only increased cost and angst; the false-value trap personified.

As a home owner, I always aim for an ‘in-the-middle’ bid along with great (and current) references.  I am as wary of the ‘lowest bids’ as I am the ‘highest bids’ and often exclude both from my decision-process.  I am happy to pay for good quality work, and realize that this comes at a cost (and a fair price).  The City of Toronto seems to be caught up in the ‘cheap’ versus ‘value’ paradigm with little or no regard to previous performance.

I feel the need to note here, that many Roman roads (thousands of years old) are still intact.  With this in mind, it is shocking to me that the City of Toronto currently accepts bids with a two-year warranty.  Why is this ridiculously short warranty period even considered when new, multi-million dollar contracts are awarded? Someone is benefiting immensely here, and it is not the taxpayers of Toronto.

Yes, I understand that ‘roads are different now’ and that there’s ‘a lot more traffic’ and that we ‘have cars and trucks’ now, but a two-year warranty seems to necessarily imply planned obsolescence.  Surely cities (with their huge buying clout) can demand a more substantial warranty here, and city contractors should be prepared to provide it. Why is this not happening?

Delays also seem to be an all too common occurrence with city contracts.  Why are cost and time overruns even allowed to happen?  If a contractor underbids and then compensates their ‘underbid’ by completing poor workmanship and/or taking longer than promised, why are they allowed to bid on new contracts?

Yes, I do have both a public and a personal agenda here.  My personal problems with the City of Toronto date back to October 18th, 2014, and they are still outstanding. I left work that morning with a huge backhoe banging the street right in front of my home after a pre-inspection by Sanson Construction (the City Contractor) back in August of that year.  This is what I came home to:

12 Luttrell LRoom2 (1)

The crack as it was back on October, 2014.

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Another view of the crack as it was back on October, 2014.

I filed a claim with the City of Toronto immediately afterwards and a follow-up inspection occurred on March 31st (fully five months later).  Note the increased damage below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My ceiling now. Note the significantly more pronounced sag.

The damage was noted.  As of yet, I have received only cursory follow-up from the contractor regarding this issue. This is what it looks like now (note the significant sagging).  I am a single father of a four-year-old daughter and have banned her from our front room for months now.  I have lost significant enjoyment of my property and there are significant safety issues here.  When is this going to be fixed?, and by whom?  I would like to enjoy my front room, once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful placement of destroyed planters on my front lawn by Sanscon Construction.

Here is a picture of my planters after Sanscon Construction appeared at my home on a Saturday morning at 7 am back in November, 2014.   The planters remain there, seven months later (yet, albeit pushed to the side).  What ever happened to the idea of cleaning up after yourself?

Finally, I come to the issue of concrete and City of Toronto and Sanscon Construction.  The concrete sidewalks on our street are only a couple of weeks old and are already cracking. When I posed this question to Mario Goolsarran, Senior Engineer, Streetcar Way & Special Projects, he replied: ” To address the cracks in the sidewalk, the primary crack following through from the saw cut joint is expected (hence the reason why the concrete is saw cut in the first place) [so it’s completely okay that our new sidewalks are cracked immediately after pouring]. The secondary crack which propagates from the primary crack occurs occasionally and is associated with the expansion and contraction of the concrete [that is already expected and accepted in a City contract?]]. This type of crack is generally not a major concern and can be sealed during the warranty period.”  Really, just how forgiving would you be (as a Chief City Engineer) if you personally paid for this work on your own property?

IMG_0751 (1)

An apparently ‘acceptable’ crack according to the City of Toronto on my brand new sidewalk via Sanscon Construction. See you after the first freeze cycle.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get it sealed and/or repaired.  I am dumbfounded.  So, my understanding from what you have said, is that all new side walks should expect to have cracks in them and that secondary cracks are “not a major concern”. Really?  So, potentially problematic work is fine because it can be covered by a warranty (which should never be anticipated to having to be used in the first place)?  Here is a picture of my brand new sidewalk as part of a $6 Million dollar contract in my neighbourhood.  Why are you seemingly making excuses for our contracted employee (Sanscon Construction)?

How about not letting this type of work be permitted in the first place so that no ‘warranty’ even needs to be ‘potentially’ applied?  How about seeking ‘value’ versus ‘lowest price’ at the city level and not having these issues to begin with.  You appear to be being ‘cheap’ instead of being ‘frugal’, City of Toronto.

What incentive or support do you need in order to change the practice of looking at ‘initial bid cost’ and continuing to award contracts to ‘problematic’ contractors, City of Toronto?  Let me know if I can help you move towards ‘full-cost’ or ‘real’ accounting so that true long-term ‘value’ is achieved with taxpayer money.  I have plenty of ideas, am action-oriented, and would be more than willing to offer my support in any way possible.

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Update

My ceiling as it looked Friday, May 22nd after I returned home from a day at work.  Why on Earth am I still waiting for a damage claim eight months after the initial damage?  Please explain.

IMG_0784

 

 

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Author: Jason Milburn Google

 

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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