The provincial government is calling for construction project applications from municipalities earlier in the year in an attempt to get funded work underway earlier.
The shifting deadline, and earlier government review, was noted on Thursday during the annual general meeting of the province’s Heavy Civil Association in St. John’s.
Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto told The Telegram the date for project proposals, including for water and wastewater projects, has been changing in response to comments from municipalities, civil contractors and individuals who have been critical of heavy equipment going out too far into the construction season.
“We’ve been criticized for not getting these tenders out early enough,” Letto said, noting the 2019 call for water and wastewater proposals will be even earlier this year than in 2018.
“This year in 2019, we’re even going to move that back further to July. Go out for a call in July. The municipalities will have to have their projects in to us by September. Then we’ll do the ranking. And our suggestions into Ottawa so that we know before the end of the year what projects will be approved (for 2020),” he said.
“(Municipalities) can do the engineering work required over the winter months so that they’re ready for shovels in the ground come May, June.”
The push by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment follows the same move to earlier tendering for roads under the Department of Transportation and Works. That department has been trying to line up roadwork, to avoid carryovers on contracts from one year to the next. It’s maintaining a five-year plan to indicate what might be available to contractors and municipalities, for planning purposes.
Heavy Civil Association executive director Jim Organ says the shifted yearly deadlines and five-year planning is allowing member contractors to better manage their capital expenditures and staffing.
“(The government) seem to recognize the fact a lot of the tenders have been coming out late in the season in the Municipal Affairs area and they’re looking hard and working hard to try and get them out earlier,” Organ said. “So from an industry perspective, an industry point of view, that’ll be extremely beneficial to the industry for the same reasons I’ve mentioned with the Department of Transportation.”
The earlier deadlines are also tied to the need for multiple approvals for cost-shared projects. The province wants to try to maximize the flow of federal money for municipal projects under the new Building Canada Fund and other programs.
Meanwhile, Premier Dwight Ball was scheduled to give a separate address to the Heavy Civil Association at the close of its AGM on Friday night. Ball was to announce some of the early tenders for 2019 roadwork.