New grass contractors for Ridgetown and East Kent

The Ridgetown and East Kent area will have a new contractor for grass-cutting service on municipality-owned properties for the next five years.

Talis Group Inc., a company from Tecumseh, was approved for 18 of the 39 five-year Municipal Grass Cutting contracts in Chatham-Kent, which was approved during the March 6 Council meeting.

A second Windsor-area company, TDE Group Inc., based in Oldcastle, was awarded nine contracts, while three contracts were awarded to KnM Yard Care of Leamington and one to Morlo Landscapes of Brigden.

Only four companies from Chatham-Kent received five-year contracts covering 2023-27. A numbered Chatham company and Kevin’s Lawn Care of Wheatley received three contracts each, while Green Cuts of Morpeth and Peltier’s Lawn Care of Pain Court received one each.

Council approved administration’s recommendation to enter five-year contracts with the approved contractors by a 12-1 vote, with South Kent’s Anthony Ceccacci the lone dissenter, while Trevor Thompson did not vote, citing a conflict of interest.

A total of $988,992.00 was budgeted for grass-cutting in 2023, but the total contract, including 1.76% HST, is a bill of $1,305,234.82 on taxpayers.

The municipality divides its grass-cutting areas into 39 separate contracts, including eight regional cemetery contracts.

A total of 16 contractors submitted bids during the tender period, which ran from December 23 to January 20.

The Talis Group was awarded contracts for Ridgetown, Highgate, the Ward 3 rural area and five cemeteries in East Kent. The company was also awarded the Blenheim, Erieau and Ward 2 rural area, four contracts in both Chatham and Wallaceburg, as well as Dresden and portions of Ward 4.

Wallaceburg Lawn Care Ltd., owned by Dave Smith of Blenheim, provided grass-cutting service in Ridgetown and East Kent area for the final three years of the previous five-year contract, which ran from 2017-21, as well as the extended singe-year contract for 2022. The company also stepped up to take additional one-year contracts in 2022 for Blenheim, Erieau, rural Ward 2, as well as portions of Chatham. However, Wallaceburg Lawn Care was one of five local companies whose submitted tenders were rejected as being ‘non-compliant,’ according to the Chatham-Kent Municipal Bids & Tenders page. The other companies were Farrell Lawn Care from Bothwell, which provided service to Ward 3 cemeteries in 2022, H.F. Lawn Care of Charing Cross, Better Lawn Services of Chatham, and Rural Routes Landscaping from Thamesville.

The five-year contracts awarded by the Engineering & Transportation division in 2017 expired at the end of 2021, but the municipality waited until March 7, 2022, to offer one-year extensions to existing contractors rather than new five-year deals.

Many of the contractors, however, chose to decline the one-year deals, citing staff shortages and other financial issues, such as the expense of purchasing new equipment for a single season.

The low number of tenders forced the municipality to open a second tendering period from April 22-May 6.

In the meantime, the municipality was forced to find temporary replacements as the wet spring, and early warm weather accelerated grass growth and left many parks, boulevards and other municipal properties with unsightly, tall grass.

Wallaceburg Lawn Care was one of the contractors that stepped up to provide temporary service outside of their areas until the new contracts were finalized and went into effect on May 31, as the company added Blenheim, Erieau and Harwich contracts to its existing workload.

Despite assisting the municipality during last spring’s tall grass crisis, its tender for the ‘23-27 contract was rejected as being ‘non-compliant.’ No reason was provided in the report to Council or on the Tenders & Bids pages.

Smith politely declined comment when contacted before the March 6 Council meeting.

The report to Council stated because of the higher-than-normal number of non-compliant bids, administration will consider taking additional steps for future grass-cutting tenders to improve bid compliance, including specific training or meetings with bidders.

However, no steps were taken to assist Wallaceburg Lawn Care or the other four non-compliance bids for the new five-year contracts, even though there was over a month between the closing deadline and notification to the successful contractors.

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News