Tombstone troubles
Businessman says city hoodwinked him

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 05/97) - A Northern headstone maker says the city has chiselled him out of a lucrative contract.

But the city sees it quite differently.

Andrew Hammond, owner and operator of the only headstone business in the North, says the city betrayed him in late January when it tendered a contract for grave markers at Lakeview Cemetery.

The contract was for the supply and installation of 100 headstones, the second part of an on-going project to mark about 250 graves in the cemetery.

Hammond, owner and operator of Hammond Stone Works, installed the first 98 markers last summer, after winning a September 1995 tender.

"What they did, in essence, was screw me on my trade secrets," said Hammond.

"It is public knowledge what was done at the cemetery on those 98 units. Anybody could find out what my unit cost was," said Hammond.

Nahanni Construction Ltd., a Yellowknife construction firm, won the second contract.

Under the proposal call method of awarding contracts, all information about the competition, apart from the winning bid, remains secret.

The city defends this method by saying businesses would be reluctant to bid without the assurance their competitive secrets will remain secret.

With that assurance, Hammond responded with an 11-page proposal outlining options the city could choose from for the entire job.

In accepting the job, public works said the job would have to be stretched over several years, since there wasn't enough money in that year's budget for all of the work.

But public works director Neil Jamieson said the city is not obliged to keep any secrets after the first contract.

"Anybody who is doing work for us who comes up with a better way of doing the job, that's our information," said Jamieson.

"Just because we order a contract through a call for proposal does not mean we can't turn around and tender it at some future date."

Hammond said the city misled him when they accepted his proposal, indicating the second half of the job was a matter of getting budget approval from council.

"They didn't tell me that I was going to do it on a year-to-year basis, and that I was going to have to be looking over my shoulder every year thereafter," said Hammond.