When Amherst town council decided earlier this week to award its insurance services tender to an outside company that had ties to the community, it had to know the decision was certain to be met with some acrimony by residents.
Archway Insurance has been the town’s insurance services provider for several years and figured prominently in the settlement that followed the August 2012 fire that destroyed the Windsor and Black Block buildings and forced the town’s police department to relocate to the temporary quarters at the fire department and then more permanent surrounding above the Four Fathers Memorial Library.
Last year, when he suggested the insurance contract be sent out to the open market, Coun. George Baker said it was in no way a statement about Archway Insurance’s performance. He said council has a responsibility to get the best deal and best price for its taxpayers. Unfortunately, in this case, that means going to an outside insurance company.
Fraser and Hoyt’s tender of $164,000 came in more than $13,000 lower than Archway Insurance’s. Because of that, the town wasn’t given much choice but to award the tender to a company that has its head office a couple of hundred kilometres away in Pictou County.
Fraser and Hoyt will no doubt do an admirable job as Amherst’s insurance provider. They are an established company with business throughout the province and a connection to Amherst Insurance – which was locally owned until being sold last year to an out of province firm.
Coun. Robert Bird is very right when vents his frustration at the Atlantic Procurement Agreement that basically tied the town’s hands and forced it to award the contract to Fraser & Hoyt.
Archway Insurance is celebrating its 25th year in Amherst in 2014. In that time it has poured thousands of dollars into minor sports, the schools and numerous charities including the United Way of Cumberland County. It employs 14 in Amherst and runs its head office out of here.
That community commitment should mean something when it comes time for the town to award its insurance contract. It would be understandable had the difference been in the thousands, but the difference isn’t close to what the company pours into the economy and the community.
Amherst can’t be faulted for following what’s an antiquated procurement policy that dates back to 1996 and hasn’t been adjusted since. The province needs to step to update the agreement so towns like Amherst can give preference to their own without having to explain why it’s taking business out of the community it should be supporting.