It’s an unprecedented move at Chilliwack city hall.
A paving contractor might be banned from bidding on Chilliwack contracts in the new year.
Council was supposed to vote Tuesday on whether Keywest Asphalt (333) Ltd. would be struck from the list of qualified bidders for a period of five years, after a series of quality and safety issues were chronicled by engineering staff in a scathing staff report.
Keywest had a much higher number of safety and quality concerns than other paving companies, and their violations “put the public at risk,” according to the staff report.
More than a dozen “warnings” were issued to the paving contractor, for issues like an illegal fire hydrant connection, trespassing, “wavy base course edges” or insufficient traffic control.
Before they could vote, Coun. Jason Lum piped up with an amendment, asking for it to be referred back to staff to look over the new information.
“I just think it’s us doing our due diligence,” Lum said after the meeting. “The paving company’s submission had just been given to us. It’s not going to hurt to give staff some time to respond.”
A 10-minute rebuttal to the staff report was delivered by company spokesperson Gurneet Dhatt for Keywest Asphalt (333), who listed improvement strategies, new hires, and quality and safety assurances the company was pledging to undertake.
Keywest management team members Ricky Dhatt, Ranjeet Dhillon and Allen Kungle were also present in council chambers.
“We believe council needs to hear our side, before it can proceed to make the right decision,” Dhatt said addressing city council at city hall.
She thanked council for the opportunity to respond to the report’s damning conclusions given that council was about to decide on the company’s fate.
They were completely “stunned” by the staff recommendation that Key-West or Keywest Asphalt (333), as they refer to themselves, be struck from the bidders’ list, she said.
Dhatt addressed some of the issues that came up in the staff report, like when signs blew down that they fixed them, or when paving work continued without any flaggers, someone was fired.
“We have a substantial and systematic plan to continue to improve the safety and quality of our work, and to greatly improve service to Chilliwack,” said Dhatt.
Keywest Asphalt (333) Ltd. was incorporated in 2015, and there were companies under other business names, such as GTB Construction or Key-West, that were awarded the paving contract for Chilliwack every year but two, going back to 2009, said staff. Key-West has also been the sub-contractor on several design/build projects.
One incident cited a flagger vacating their post, leaving motorists to guess when it was safe to enter the single-lane traffic, which could have led to a head-on crash.
“While their price competitiveness” translated into $510,499 in savings over the years, the staff report concluded the “physical risk” to the public and “long-term maintenance costs” may not ultimately offer the city good value.
But the Keywest company rep was adamant that they be given a chance, stating they had hired 20 new staff to add to the team, including new project managers that will act as a foreman and a safety officer.
“Considering the success of projects Keywest (333) has completed in Chilliwack and other municipalities for the past several years and our company’s dedication to the safety and quality of roads in this city, we were stunned by this report,” Dhatt said.
The staff recommendation that they be struck from the list, was made by staff who also recommended Keywest for various projects.
“In this presentation, I’ve addressed the safety and quality issues in the November report, as well as presented a comprehensive plan to further improve the safety and quality of service provided to Chilliwack.
“I have also shown extensive proof of capability of this company to continue working with Chilliwack successfully and provided a letter of recommendation from the Corporation of Delta’s P. engineer.
“Keywest Asphalt (333) is truly devoted to helping to build Chilliwack, is fully capable of doing the best job possible, and deserves the council’s confidence in continuing to make Chilliwack a safe and prosperous place.”
In the end council voted to refer back to staff, with Councillors Sam Waddington and Ken Popove opposed, which means the topic will be back before council in January.
Coun. Waddington said he supported the staff recommendation to have Keywest struck from the bidders’ list.
“This isn’t a single issue, it’s ongoing,” Waddington said. “It’s unfortunate we have to take a step like this.”