The County of Stettler is taking it’s septic hauling contract back to the drawing board. The decision was made during the Nov. 15 council meeting.
Council made the decision following a delegation at a previous meeting where the contractor who is hauling the sewage from the communities of Buffalo View Estates and Buffalo Sands presented to council that due to changes made in the contract he is losing money and cannot afford to keep going at the current rate.
Of particular note in the changes mentioned are the road bans on Bayview Street. While that road has been banned for years, according to administration, it is only recently that enforcement has taken place on it in an effort to preserve the roadway.
A road ban limits the amount of weight a vehicle, such as a vacuum truck, can be loaded with when travelling on it.
With the enforcement now taking place, the contractor is unable to take full loads as he previously did, requiring more runs into the area. The contractor was the lowest bid for the contract by a significant margin, and the only local to bid.
In the request for council decision (RCD) presented during the meeting, council was given the option to either re-negotiate the contract with the existing contractor, re-tender the contract adding several parameters, or requesting the contractor honour the contract until its 2024 expiration.
Coun. Justin Stevens was firmly opposed to re-negotiating the contract as he felt it would be seen as “playing favourites” to renegotiate the contract after the contractor had already seen all the other bids.
Coun. James Nibourg was concerned as well about the precedent that would be set by re-negotiating the contract, saying that it would leave the county open to contractor’s underbidding on future jobs then having them come back when they find they can’t do it for the quoted price.
“He bid it, he did sign his name,” said Nibourg.
“We have a contract to 2024.”
Chief administrative officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy noted that if the contract were to be re-tendered, she would like to see a change to the level of service.
The current contract calls for the septic holding tanks to be held at 75 per cent capacity.
“I would like to see a contractor come in and empty the tanks,” said Cassidy.
“You’re going to limit the traffic on Bayview Street during the summer.”
Cassidy noted that by emptying the tanks, the noise and smell would both also be significantly reduced.
One option that council discussed was installing a grinder pump for solid matter into the septic storage tanks, which would allow tank trucks to haul the sewage at a reduced cost instead of the more expensive vacuum trucks.
Nibourg commented that by cancelling the contract and re-tendering it the county is likely to see a significant increase in cost.
Another factor complicating the haul contract is the closure of the sewage lagoon in Red Willow, which leaves Erskine as the only lagoon in the county currently accepting waste. When the contractor presented at the previous meeting, he commented that due to the lack of options in Stettler County he had begun hauling to Bashaw.
It was noted by administration in the meeting that the review of the Red Willow lagoon was still in process with Alberta Environment.
At CAO Cassidy’s suggestion, Coun. Justin Stevens motioned to re-tender the contract for a one-year term.
“I don’t want to be locked into a long-term contract at peak diesel prices,” said Stevens, agreeing with the suggestion.
The motion passed, barely, with Reeve Clarke, Nibourg and Coun. Dave Grover voting against it.
Along with the new request for proposal to be issued by the county, administration is also to look into the installation of a grinder pump into the storage tanks to allow those submitting proposals more flexibility.