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TTC suing reluctant low bidder

May. 29, 2001. 12:44 AM

Contractor’s reversal cost $434,000 on project

Paul Moloney
CITY HALL BUREAU

The Toronto Transit Commission is seeking to recover more than $400,000 from a contractor who was low bidder for a bus storage facility but balked at doing the work.

Gottardo Construction Ltd. submitted the lowest of eight bids ($4,811,000) to pave an outdoor storage area for 114 buses, upgrade an employee parking lot and perform other work at the Birchmount bus garage.

City councillors on the TTC approved awarding the contract to Gottardo, but the Thornhill company claimed there was a calculation error in the bid and it was no longer prepared to do the work for the stated price.

“It’s very, very uncommon,” said Al Chocorlan, the TTC’s procurement manager. “One of the reasons that this particular thing stood out is because it’s one of the few times it has happened.”

The commission ultimately accepted the second-lowest bid - $5,245,000 from Ashbridge Construction Inc. - and decided to go after Gottardo to collect the $434,000 difference.

The TTC started legal action about two weeks ago.

The issue has split politicians into two camps - those who didn’t want to penalize Gottardo financially and those who said letting Gottardo withdraw would send the wrong signal.

Councillor Betty Disero (Ward 17, Davenport), in a confidential letter to her fellow transit commissioners, proposed the TTC cancel the tender and prohibit Gottardo from bidding on future contracts.

Gottardo told The Star he could live with that outcome.

“We were very hopeful that at the end of the day, they were going to say, `Gottardo, all right, listen, we’re going to suspend you for two years or a year from pricing any more TTC work as a penalty.’

Gottardo has not done work before for the TTC, but staff were satisfied his firm could do the job.

Disero said it’s unfortunate the TTC took a hard line.

“This poor guy. He’s come in twice. He says they made a mistake. I say release him and the staff say no.”

Other commissioners strongly backed the staff’s position.

“You cannot let people jerk around with the tendering process or pull political strings in order to weasel their way out of a contract,” said Councillor Howard Moscoe (Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence).

The taxpayer-funded transit system should not set a precedent of letting the low bidder off the hook and taking the second lowest bid, said Councillor Joe Mihevc.

The TTC awards contracts for hundreds of millions dollars in goods and services and often there’s a significant price difference between the lowest and second lowest bid, said Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s).

Chocorlan said the TTC could face “chaos” if it starts granting exceptions to the rules.

“The whole purpose in the public tendering process is that everyone must have a fair chance at the contract. But it also means that you can’t allow people to withdraw their bid because they think they’re too low and everybody else bid higher,” he said.

“If you did that, we’d have chaos.”




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