Councillor Stroud challenges single-bid, $579K parking garage restoration

If you’re someone who regularly parks in Kingston’s downtown core, you’d likely agree that the Robert Bruce Memorial Parking Gararge off of Bagot Street is in desperate need of some serious restoration.

A pickup truck navigates the tight entrance at the Robert Bruce Memorial Parking Garage off of Bagot Street in downtown Kingston, where emergency shoring is currently in place pending the restoration of the parking structure. Photo by Josie Vallier.

Peter Stroud, City Councillor for the Sydenham District – the district that abuts the King’s Town District just a block from where the parking lot stands – doesn’t disagree with that. The self-professed “downtown guy” did, however, take issue with the recommended contract award for that restoration work that came before Council in a report at their meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2022.

The request for proposals (RFP) for the restoration project, which aimed at addressing the deterioration of the parking structure at that lot, initially closed on Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022, according to the report from Neil Carbone, Commissioner of Corporate Services for the City of Kingston. Two bids were received from contractors, one of which “did not score above the minimum threshold, and therefore did not proceed further in the evaluation process,” the report reads.

The other bid, from Brook Restoration Ltd., did score above the minimal threshold as outlined in the original RFP. A bid must score a minimum of 34/45 in non-price criteria, with Brook Restoration being scored 18 per cent on “experience and qualifications,” 24 per cent on “proposed methodology,” and three per cent on “accessibility.” In price criteria, the company scored 55 per cent on “pricing and related costs,” with the final bid coming in at $579,000, and scored at 81 per cent by City Staff. To be clear, the City of Kingston scoring on RFPs is out of 100 per cent, which is not the case with all RFP scoring systems.

“Much of the deterioration to be addressed by this project is advancing, meaning a delay to re-issue this RFP would result in increased repair quantities and overall project costs. As much of the work requires good weather to complete, re-issuing the RFP would delay the work to summer 2023,” the report states, noting that City staff have “consulted with contractors on the lack of bids received on RFPs such as this,” and that, due to the large amount of work available to local contractors, many are not currently seeking additional work. 27 companies did download the documents for the RFP in question, however, only two were submitted, and only the bid from Brook Restoration qualified for consideration.

“Department staff are satisfied with the submission and it is recommended that this contract be awarded to Brook Restoration Ltd. having submitted a high scoring submission. The mandatory submission and technical requirements of the RFP were met, and their submitted proposal articulated an acceptable methodology to achieve the requirements outlined in the RFP,” the report concludes.

Councillor Stroud was the only member of Council to request the item on the recommended contract be separated from the rest of the report, so as to speak to it on the floor of Council Chambers.

“If you read the report, you’ll see the large sum of money that’s needed for this restoration. And you may think… this is a maintenance cost that we can’t avoid. But I think before we commit that amount of public funds, we need to have a good understanding of the up-sides and down-sides,” Stroud began.

The actual age of the structure was not listed in the report to Council, however, the RFP for the project includes “Original building drawings from 1966.” Acknowledging that the parking garage has been around “for a long time”, Stroud explained that with parking systems, there are capital costs, operating costs, and maintenance costs, and then they also have revenue from the parking, which comes in every day.

“It’s not in the report, but is there any way we can see the cost-benefit analysis, or even in a very high level of what this work performs… rather than taking the position that this is necessary repairs? Obviously, the alternative would be to decommission the garage and move in a different direction with this money… So, perhaps staff could talk about… what is the revenue of this garage on a yearly basis and then we can compare it to the cost?” he posed.

Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Community Services for the City of Kingston, responded first, indicating that she did not have that information available in front of her at the time of the meeting.

“We certainly do have that broken down by structure in terms of our overall parking revenues. I just don’t have that information that’s readily available to me right at the present time,” she said.

“That’s too bad; it’s hard to make a decision without that,” Stroud responded before swiftly moving on to his next question. (Agnew later commented that she was able to pull up the figures, and that “it’s about $250,000 annually associated that comes in through the parking reserve fund.”)

Councillor Peter Stroud asks questions of City of Kingston staff regarding the restoration contract for the Robert Bruce Memorial Parking Garage during the Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022, meeting of City Council. Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Community Services for the City of Kingston (left) and Councillor Jim Neill inset. Screen captured image.

Pointing out that there was only one bid on the RFP, Stroud questioned if the City is able to keep the RFP open, or to resubmit a new RFP for bids, highlighting how time-sensitive the work in question is.

Agnew noted that the RFP was actually issued by the Facilities Department, and not her department (Community Services), so she could not respond to his questions “with 100 per cent certainty”, but said that in order to receive further bids, the initial RFP would have to be cancelled and reissued, with the caveats being price and time.

After further back-and-forth between Stroud and Agnew, Jeff Rempel, Manager of Facilities and Construction Services for the City of Kingston, joined in the conversation.

“We only did get the one compliant bid, second bidder,” he said, noting that, compared to the estimate the City received from a consultant, “we were very pleased with this number, based on the extensive scope that they are that we are asking them to perform.”

“[It was u]nder what was expected,” Rempel noted, in reference to the amount of the Brook Restoration bid. “The price that was received for the scope of services that they’re providing is a very good price in this market. We could certainly cancel [the RFP, but] we would run the risk of prices increasing versus what we have right now.”

Finally, Stroud questioned if it should be a “warning sign” that the bid came in lower than what had been expected, musing, “you wonder whether they will be able to complete the work with the level of quality standard that you’re expecting.”

Rempel articulated that City staff had interviewed Brook Restoration as part of the negotiation process, asking similar questions of the contractor regarding quality, scope, and risk mitigation. “We were very satisfied with their answers to that interview,” Rempel concluded.

Currently under emergency construction, the Robert Bruce Memorial Parking Garage shows very obvious need for repair, as emergency shoring has been put in place to ensure structral integrity until the restoration project begins at the location. Photo by Josie Vallier.

Councillor Bridget Doherty, representing Portsmouth District, also asked about the contractor’s reputation and ability, wanting to know if the City has worked with Brook Restoration in the past. Rempel explained that the City has indeed worked with this company in the past, and that the contractor is actually the one currently working on the Robert Bruce Memorial parking garage structure, performing “emergency shoring” to maintain the stability of the structure pending a complete restoration.

The only other member of Council to speak to the item was Loyalist-Cataraqui District’s Simon Chapelle, who questioned if the RFP had only been advertised through Biddingo.com, a popular online contract bidding platform. He also asked if the work on the parking structure in question needs to take place this year, or if it could be deferred until next year in the hope of then acquiring “more competitive bids”.

Desiree Kennedy, CFO and City Treasurer, confirmed the RFP had only been issued on Biddingo.com. Chapelle’s second question hung in the air momentarily, remaining unanswered.

“There’s been repeated questions from myself on the bidding processes and the procurement processes being utilized, suggesting that we look at utilizing alternative bidding sources,” Chapelle continued. “When you pull down ‘Mom and Pop’s Fish and Chips’ for a construction project, I don’t think they’re able to do the work,” he said, seemingly implying that significant municipal projects should not be allocated to smaller or less-experienced companies. “So, I think we need to expand our network or just simply say no to these types of projects.”

At that point, the vote was called, and the recommendation passed by a vote of 11-1, with Councillor Stroud opposed. No official timeline on the construction project was provided at the meeting, however, City of Kingston staff referred to the work beginning this summer.

The full meeting can be viewed on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

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