With three major projects underway in the Burns Lake area, the rebuild of the Babine Forest Products sawmill, the construction of the Burns Lake hospital, and the renovation and expansion of the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena and curling rink, there should be no shortage of work available for local contractors.
One project, the renovation and multi-use facility expansion of the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena and curling rink, has not had much success with finding Burns Lake contractors for work tendered.
“I have to be honest,” said Mark Van Ek, Venture Pacific Construction founder and principal, “We’re struggling a bit with trying to get local trade interest.”
“We’re having to go out as far as Smithers, Prince George and some other outlying areas.”
Smithers-based companies were awarded roofing and drywall contracts. Framing was awarded to a Fraser Lake contractor, with concrete and foundation work awarded to a Prince George contractor.
Concrete supply went to a Telkwa concrete supplier who submitted a lower bid package than a local concrete contractor.
Price is not necessarily the deciding actor when it comes to who gets awarded a bid. Venture Pacific undertakes due diligence to ensure that bidders are qualified for the work tendered – which means the lowest bid doesn’t necessarily win – but the project does have budget constraints.
“Lower price isn’t always the case, but under the design-build scenario, it is a large factor,” Van Ek said.
Two of the major sub-trades were included in the bid package even before the Village of Burns Lake awarded the design and build project to VPC.
Smithers Electric Ltd. and Aqua North Plumbing Ltd., both out of Smithers, were part of VPC’s original bid package.
“They were part of our team at the proposal stage,” Van Ek said.
“We put a lot of effort and time into getting locals as much as possible,” he added. “Despite all our efforts to involve Burns Lake as much as possible, we just did not get Burns Lake bidders on bid day for some of the packages.”
Venture Pacific advertised tender packages as they came available. Staff at VPC head office in Langley used the Burns Lake phone book and a list of contractors provided by the VBL to call local contractors and solicit interest in the project.
Rick Williston, VPC’s site supervisor and journeyman carpenter, hired three local workers to assist with aspects of the project.
Van Ek pointed out that the other major construction projects in town may have affected the availability of local tradespeople.
Currently, VPC is accepting bids on its third tender package, which includes finishing work, painting, flooring, and tile.
Venture Pacific has no contractual commitment with the VBL on this project to give preferential treatment to local contractors, although they do strive to hire locally.
“We are the design and build contractor with a fixed price contract, or to put it more simply, we are a general contractor and our contract includes design responsibility,” Van Ek explained. “On all our projects our desire is to involve local trades and suppliers as much as possible.”