04/11/2013 01:46 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Boroughs pilot in-house sidewalk repair contracts

Two Montreal boroughs are starting pilot projects to do sidewalk work internally in the wake of widespread collusion allegations against private sector companies previously contracted to do the work.

Villeray-St-Michel-Park Extension and Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce will use its own workers for all major sidewalk tasks.

Anie Samson, the mayor of Villeray-St-Michel-Park Extension, said the move will provide a better use of taxpayer money.

"We can see at the Commission Charbonneau that nobody has confidence now," she sad. "And that's why we have to plan other things to do things differently."

Samson said when the borough got quotes from private contractors in recent years, the costs that came back were significantly more than what the borough had internally estimated.

Pilot program

The borough is instead planning to train a 12-person team of its own workers to do all sidewalk repairs from May until September.

"We're going to test it this year," Samson said. "Hopefully it's going to work and, next year, we're going to give all the contracts to them."

The union representing the employees says it is possible to get the work done without overtime if it's done over an extended period of time.

Stéphane Meloche, spokesman for Montreal's Blue Collar workers, said the city already has the equipment and the workers needed to do the job.

He said city workers used to do these kinds of repairs but, over time, the work was contracted out.

Meloche also said it cost the boroughs less to use their own workers and there are enough of them right now to complete the work through the summer.

"For now, the workload is okay," he said. "But if we need some additional workers and, if citizens are saving money, why not hire some more workers?"

Michel Parent, also from the blue collar workers union, said a few additional employees will be trained to cover sick days.

The Villeray-Saint-Michel-Park-Extension borough will evaluate the costs of this pilot project in September and review if it is viable for future years.

So far, only two boroughs have signed agreements with the workers to test out doing the work internally.

However, last week, Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel suggested Montreal start its own asphalt company to avoid a similar problem of confidence.

The city’s contract for its asphalt supply was set to run out on April 15 and councillors were forced to decide between letting the asphalt supply run out, or awarding the multi-million dollar contract to companies that had come under suspicion.

In the end, and in spite of the results of a citizen's poll that favoured the contrary, councillors voted to honour the contracts awarded to companies named at the Charbonneau Commission.