Sandy Casselman
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BERWICK – The Township of North Stormont’s Public Works’ superintendent Blake Henderson will take the lead in overseeing the municipality’s Crysler Fire Hall project.

The decision was made in a four-to-one vote during the May 4 council meeting, where CAO Craig Calder recommended that the township be declared the general contractor, and Henderson the project manager for the building’s construction. Councillor Roxane Villeneuve was the lone opposition to the recommendation.

“Everybody knows my intentions of trying to save taxpayer dollars,” Henderson said, adding that he could focus on the project and allow his supervisor to take the lead on regular Public Works activities in the meantime. He said this would save the municipality money from having to hire an outside contractor, while at the same time giving Henderson’s supervisor more responsibility and experience. Villeneuve interrogated Henderson about his qualifications to act as the project’s general contractor. She said she was not asking about his years of experience, but rather his specific credentials.

“I was the main person on the Avonmore Fire Hall and even though we tendered out the North Stormont Place, I was the basic general contractor. I did all the civic work – water and sewer, electrical. So, I have experience doing this,” Henderson said. “And we have a professional engineer overseeing the whole project and inspecting the project. The engineer designs it, does the plans up, and I’m taking the plans and doing the RFQ [request for quotes] for them, and making sure everything is being done. I’d be doing all the civil work, the groundwork.”

Henderson said he has been with the municipality for 34 years and acting as superintendent for roughly 20 of those years. Villeneuve pushed for credentials for things like electrical or plumbing.

“It’s not the fire marshal who builds the firehall, it’s the building code. What we have here is a project manager who will line up the right people,” Deputy Mayor François Landry said, adding that he did not see the relevance of Villeneuve’s questioning.

Calder said Henderson would not be doing this alone. He said he would have the appropriate township staff assisting on administrative and financial aspects of the job.

“This is not going to be a soldier of one; he’s going to have an army behind him,” Calder said.

Villeneuve then questioned whether Henderson would be following the procurement policy for things like the electrical and plumbing work. She wanted to know how council could be sure he was doing so.

“You are being informed all along the project,” Henderson said. “Right now, it’s just May 4; if we can get a fast jump on this in the early construction season, we can be sure to get subcontractors to get their bids in.”

Mayor Jim Wert agreed. He said an added benefit of having Henderson in control of the RFQ process would be ensuring that the local businesses had a chance to bid and potentially take on the jobs. Hiring an outside general contractor would mean losing that control, he said.

“I know this is my first term as councillor, but I’ve lived here 25 years and I’ve seen the work that has been done through our Public Works,” Coun. Steve Densham said. “We have the same amount of kilometres as all the other municipalities, yet we do, I think through the creativity of our Public Works’ department, we do amazing stuff for much less. So, if there’s somebody who knows our business and can help maneuver through – granted we have a challenging time with COVID-19 and pressures – but if there’s somebody who can help us maneuver through that, I think it is our superintendent of Public Works.”

The discussion ended with Villeneuve calling for a recorded vote.