Saskatoon builders frustrated local design firms lose bid for $4.8M library contract

Click to play video 'Saskatoon builders frustrated local design firms lose bid for $4.8M library contract' Saskatoon builders frustrated local design firms lose bid for $4.8M library contract
WATCH: Saskatoon's construction industry is frustrated that early contracts for the design of the city's new central library was awarded to three out of province firms – Nov 26, 2020

Saskatoon’s construction industry is frustrated after a contract regarding the design of the city’s new library was awarded to three out-of-province architecture firms.

On Nov. 17, Formline Architecture, Chevalier Morales Architectes and Architecture49 were awarded the $4.8 million prime design contract for the new central library, set to be constructed on 2nd Avenue North between 24th and 25th streets.

Read more: Indigenous architect Alfred Waugh tapped to design new downtown Saskatoon library

The Saskatoon Construction Association penned a letter to Saskatoon Public Library’s (SPL) board of trustees saying it hoped more weight would be given to local companies during the procurement process.

“Local content has to be something in the mix when they’re considering these things, and right now it isn’t. That is what our biggest concern is,” executive director Shannon Friesen told Global News.

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The letter noted the process should’ve looked at getting the most out of tax dollars by awarding the prime design contract to a local firm.

SPL’s board said the province’s New West Trade Partnership Agreement, which governs SPL procurement, prevents the board from giving preference to local companies.

“SPL entered into a rigorous and fair request for proposals process, which invited all interested parties to submit proposals for integrating Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of knowing into a state-of-the-art library,” said a statement from chairperson Brett Bradshaw.

“SPL took a progressive approach to developing the scoring rubric, placing value on team experience, relevant project experience, references and cost. The scoring rubric also scored on criteria of understanding of design objectives, leadership and collaboration, history of designing within budget constraints, and plans for community engagement.

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“This approach resulted in selecting the best overall team, not the lowest-priced proposal.”

Read more: Saskatoon mayoral candidates differ on viability of a new downtown central library

The three firms who won the contract are based out of B.C., Manitoba and Quebec.

Despite the $4.8-million contract already being given out, about $2 million of it is available to 11 sub-consultants, which SPL noted are mostly local firms.

Friesen notes local companies becoming sub-consultants is a silver lining, but awarding the full amount to a local firm could’ve been a big boost to Saskatoon’s economy.

“It undermines our local talent here. We could’ve been much more involved and our own architects would be very invested and committed to our own community,” she said.

Read more: Land purchased for new downtown Saskatoon library

Friesen added that the association isn’t opposed to the SPL being bound to the trade agreement, but thinks more needs to be done during the procurement process of taxpayer-funded projects to work with local businesses, especially given the slowdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The SPL board said the construction of the new central library is estimated to contribute approximately $132 million to Canada’s GDP and 1,043 full-time jobs over three years with nearly 70 per cent of these impacts benefitting Saskatchewan.

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