Made in USA
Welding company steamed over benches

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 05/00) - The decorative new benches that line Franklin Avenue are the cause of concern for one local welding company.

Jackie Paul, co-owner of Paul Brothers Welding, spotted city crews installing the steel benches last week while running errands in the downtown area.

"I thought, 'I wonder how come we never saw a tender or anything on these,'" said Paul.

Looking a little closer, Paul noticed stickers on each end of the benches stating the manufacturer's name -- Victor Stanley, a company located in the state of Maryland. Yellowknifer contacted Victor Stanley in Maryland but was directed to one of its Canadian distributors, Habitat Systems, in Alberta.

The distributor confirmed nine benches were purchased by the City of Yellowknife in December 1999. Each bench was purchased for $1,222 (Cdn). That price includes GST and shipping costs.

After Paul's discovery she went to City Hall to find out why the benches were not tendered locally. She was told by Greg Keough, manager of public works and engineering, that the benches had been ordered from a catalogue.

"I was very upset about it because the city should try to support local businesses first before they do anything else, before they even think about going south," said Paul.

"You know, (we) try to run a business here, (we're) paying taxes ... we're the guys that are making things happen here," Paul said.

She said it would take some research before determining how much Paul Brothers Welding would have charged for making the benches. However, Paul gasped when told the price the city paid for them.

"Oh my God! I was thinking quite a bit lower than that," exclaimed Paul.

She was also surprised when she said she witnessed a city employee removing the stickers from the benches within a day of her conversation with Keough. When contacted by Yellowknifer Keough confirmed the benches were purchased from a Canadian catalogue.

"We didn't realize they were coming from the United States."

"We thought it would be more cost-effective to tender it through this catalogue and not have them fabricated up North," said Keough.

To date, only nine benches have been purchased by the city but several businesses on Franklin Avenue have requested that more be installed.

"They should have given us a chance," said Paul, referring to Paul Brothers Welding and two other Yellowknife welding companies. "If we can't provide the product or our prices are too far out of whack, then fine, look somewhere else, but we weren't even given the opportunity.".

Keough said he is unsure whether additional benches will be purchased from the American company.

"Locally, (the welding companies) are set up to build the benches, but let's say that if we're going to buy additional benches, we would ask the local companies what their price would be," Keough said.

Coun. Bob Brooks said council was not aware the benches had been purchased from an American company until the issue was brought up during a committee meeting last week.

"The instruction that we (the council) gave once we found out ... is that we would prefer to try and find ways to do this locally," Brooks said. He was surprised to hear the identifying labels had been removed from the benches after Paul brought her concerns to City Hall.

"As far as I'm concerned, if you're willing to buy somebody's product then a product is a product and you should be proud of what you bought," said Brooks.

Gary Craig, director of public works, said the stickers were removed without his knowledge.

"They had intended on removing them, I guess this kind of sparked them that they should remove them (immediately)."

"In hindsight they should have left them on long enough that this issue was over and then take them off," Craig said.