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Troubled by timing - Warden questions procurement process after Bridgetown Pharmasave loses local nursing home contract

['Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski spoke during the BRHS farewell. He praised BRHS during the school’s farewell gathering June 10.']
“I would always encourage any organization within the municipality to do all that it can to preserve community partnerships that maximize the benefit for our region of the activities that take place within our region” -- Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski
BRIDGETOWN, N.S. —

Annapolis County’s warden is troubled by the timing of Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation’s annual report to council that extolled the virtues of community partnerships just three days before news came out that it had severed ties with Bridgetown Pharmasave.

Lawtons Drugs, owned by the Sobeys Group and headquartered in Pictou County, will replace Bridgetown Pharmasave as the pharmacy services provider for Mountain Lea Lodge, Willow Vale Supervised Apartments, and The Meadows in Bridgetown.

“We don’t have any say or authority over any decision they make at all,” Warden Timothy Habinski said in an interview. But he has questions about the annual report and about the corporation’s procurement policy.

Partnerships

“The Tuesday prior to word coming out that the contract had not been awarded to the Bridgetown Pharmasave … the board for the municipal housing corporation, and Joyce d’Entremont the CEO, presented the annual report to council,” said Habinski. “And the annual report was accompanied by a beautifully printed, glossy brochure about all the activities that had taken place at Mountain Lea Lodge and all its various features and programs, which was wonderful and very well received by council.”

Habinski said there was one page in the report that featured community partnerships, which focused on the local dentist, who goes in and provides services to residents of Mountain Lea Lodge, and Kirk Lycett and Bridgetown Pharmasave.

“So he’s prominently featured,” the warden said about Bridgetown Pharmasave owner Lycett, adding that it also made reference to how much they appreciated the community partnerships that exist for the municipal housing corporation.

Troubling

“This is presented to us just days before it comes out that particular partnership was no longer going to be in effect,” Habinski said. “That sequence of events to me is a little troubling because of the timing. If they had come to report to council two weeks later, they might have been asked some difficult questions by council. But they asked to come and speak at that meeting and then three days later word comes out.”

Habinski also wondered about the municipal housing corporation’s procurement policy. He said the municipality has purchasing policies in place designed to give a competitive edge to local businesses.

Local advantage

“We’re permitted to do that,” he said. “So there are regulations that govern when you are permitted and not permitted to give advantages to local businesses and how large a contract has to be.”

The municipality has a policy in place that, on tenders, permits council to give a 10 per cent advantage to local businesses.

“It had been five and now we’ve raised it to 10 because we wanted to ensure every possible legal advantage was given to our local businesses,” Habinski said. “And the question I would simply ask is: ‘does the municipal housing corporation have a parallel policy?’ And if they don’t, would they consider implementing one, because we certainly believe that this area lives and dies by the strength of its community partnerships.”

An email to d’Entremont Feb. 26 asking for comments on the annual report and procurement policies, was not answered.

Due diligence

The housing corporation, which declined an interview when contacted recently, said in a statement that it has a responsibility to regularly test the market to ensure its receiving the best possible value and price from its service providers.

“Based on our comprehensive due diligence process, the selection committee unanimously agreed with awarding the contract to a new pharmacy service provider,” the statement said.

The Municipality of the County of Annapolis has no say about decisions made by the Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation.

“We have no oversight. We have no direct say. But I would always want to encourage preserving community partnerships wherever possible and wherever feasible,” Habinski said. “A policy like that might bring that more into the realm of possibility.”

Separate entities

Habinski said there are only two points of relationship between the municipality and the corporation and the first is that, purely as a courtesy, the corporation presents an annual report to the municipality.

“They’re not obligated to do this, but they do, and we appreciate it, because we’re always interested in what’s taking place in the community,” said Habinski. “The other is the municipal housing corporation selects their own candidates for the board and we confirm their nomination. We don’t serve on that board. We’ve been advised we’re not permitted to. There used to be a member from the municipality who would serve on that board but there isn’t one now because the two organizations are supposed to be distinct and separate and we didn’t want any blurring of lines.”

He said the county doesn’t select the housing corporation’s board candidates, and it doesn’t vet the candidates.

“They send us the list and we confirm the nominations, and that’s all,” he said.

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