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Local asphalt plant excluded from Whistler municipal tendering

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by Richard Gilbert

The owner of a 23-year old asphalt operation in Whistler claims his business is being targeted by municipal authorities, who are using unfair tendering practices on road maintenance contracts to force him to shut down a newly installed plant.

The owner of a 23-year old asphalt operation in Whistler claims his business is being targeted by municipal authorities, who are using unfair tendering practices on road maintenance contracts to force him to shut down a newly installed plant.

“Once we won our B.C. Supreme Court case against the municipality earlier this year and the contracts were out for tender, they put new conditions in the road and trail reconstruction program,” said Frank Silveri, owner of Whistler Aggregates and Squamish-based Alpine Paving.

“The municipality said all asphalt for any Whistler project must be produced a minimum of three kilometres from any residential neighbourhood. There is no other plant in Whistler.”

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Council awarded the Whistler 2012 Road and Reconstruction Program tender to Alpine Paving on July 3.

The company’s proposal met all of the criteria identified in the tender request and provided the lowest price for the project at $666,484.

As part of the 2012 paving program, some Valley Trail re-paving is required.

The total area of roads and trail requiring re-paving in 2012 is about 18,000 square metres.

Alpine also provided alternative pricing.

“I gave a price from Squamish on the tender,” said Silveri.

“Then, I said if the asphalt was taken from the new Whistler asphalt plant, the municipality could get a credit of about $55,000. But, they wouldn’t consider it.”

In response to Silveri’s alternative pricing, James Hallisey, manager of environmental projects with the RMOW said that “this option is contrary to previous council direction.”

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was elected in November 2011 on a platform, which included eliminating a legal asphalt plant with permits to operate that were issued by the RMOW.

“On the clean air front, discussions, monitoring and actions taken to improve air quality are to a large extent meaningless while the asphalt plant continues to operate in our town,” said Wilhelm-Morden on her election website.

“Removing the plant and ensuring, to the extent we can, that at its new location it meets stringent air quality standards is the first priority.”

The executive director of the B.C. Stone, Sand and Gravel Association is extremely concerned about the impact of this type of unfair tendering practice.

“This could be potentially devastating to the industry, because asphalt plants and gravel pits are not welcome in many communities,” said Paul Allard. “There is nothing to stop any municipality from putting these conditions on their contracts. A company can meet all the legal requirements, but the municipality can say we won’t use your services. This is absolutely ridiculous. I believe it’s illegal.”

Allard argued that the unfair tendering practice directly contradicts the municipality’s policy in relation to environmental sustainability.

“The Resort Municipality of Whistler claims that they are being green, but all that has gone out the window and their taxpayers are paying more than what would have been supplied from a legal facility in Whistler,” he said.

“We have been trying to co-operate with the municipality, but it is difficult to understand how in a free and democratic society a legal operation can be stopped from operating their duties. Frank Silveri is not being treated fairly and neither is the taxpayer because they are paying more for the same job.”

As a result, Allard is concerned that this type of unfair tendering practice will spread to other parts of the province, as well as communities that are opposed to other legal operations such as gravel pits and ready-mix concrete plants.

The Whistler 2012 road and reconstruction tender was the first municipal contract awarded to Alpine Paving, since the RMOW lost a case against the company in BC Supreme Court.

The RMOW filed a petition against Whistler Aggregates in BC Supreme Court in November 2011, which argued that the company is not allowed to manufacture asphalt because the existing bylaw does not specifically refer to asphalt production.

However, a ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kloegman in January upheld Silveri’s right to operate the asphalt plant at its current location, which was established in 1989.

Justice Kloegman ruled that the wording of the bylaw clearly permits the manufacturing and processing of gravel and aggregate.

It also allows the storage of industrial machinery, equipment and supplies related to the manufacturing and processing of gravel and aggregate.

The RMOW made the decision to locate the 2010 Olympic Athlete’s Village next to Whistler Aggregates Ltd. which has been in business for about 22 years.

However, some local residents have complained about the smell and blasting activities.

Whistler Council issued an order to Whistler Aggregates to cease and desist operating the plant by May 13, 2011, following more than a year of extensive discussion and debate about the presence and zoning of the Whistler Aggregates asphalt plant in Whistler.

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