Road builders watching Whistler with concern 

Mayor says there's nothing 'devious' in council's motives

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The president of the provincial road building association is concerned about how Whistler is getting the asphalt to pave municipal roads and trails this year.

And Jack Davidson isn't alone. He said the members of the B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association are keenly watching the situation in Whistler, in the wake of this year's tendering document that effectively cut out the only local asphalt plant from the municipal roads and trails contract.

"If a public entity can eliminate the opportunity for a legal private business to tender, that concerns us," said Davidson.

"If Whistler can do it, anyone can go after a company that they don't like and put them out of business by how they word their tender."

He questions council's motives for putting in a requirement in the tendering document that any asphalt used for the municipal work must come from a plant three kilometres away from a residential neighbourhood. Alpine Paving, Whistler's only asphalt plant, has been the sole provider of the municipal asphalt for years but that all began to change after residents started moving into the new Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood and began complaining about living next to the plant.

Whistler had hoped to quash the plant, first with a cease and desist order and then later in the B.C. Supreme Court. The judge ruled, however, that the plant is legally allowed to operate at its current location.

"I hope it's not because he won in court and now they're going to find another way to kick him," said Davidson.

"Road builders support free enterprise, fair, open, transparent tendering practices and we don't meddle in a city's policies or what they want to do, as long as their motives are right. But we're hoping that they've asked all the right questions. For whatever gain they're getting, have they weighed carefully the costs?"

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden reiterated this week that there was nothing "devious" in council's motives to put in the three kilometre radius.

The "cost-benefit analysis" she described last week was her own phraseology to talk about council's decision making.

"On the one hand we look at the additional cost, and on the other hand we look at the benefit of a nuisance-free neighbourhood," said Wilhelm-Morden.

Whistler is paying more for its asphalt to be trucked in from Squamish. Alpine Paving also runs the Squamish plant. Owner Frank Silveri offered a $55,000 savings in asphalt if he could use the Whistler plant, to no avail.

Silveri said he would be looking for a legal opinion on the issue in the coming weeks.

This week the plant, which has been quiet this summer as it undergoes a $2 million upgrade, fired up for other contracts.

Neighbours expressed their dismay on their Facebook page.

In the meantime, Silveri's fellow asphalt producers are circling the wagons and rallying with support.

"We support open, transparent, fair tendering process always," said Davidson. "And this appears like it's not.

"I would guess that Alpine will be getting a legal opinion on it and if they (council) have done something illegal then certainly we would ask them to correct that."

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