Revelstoke council reverses Williamson’s Lake contract decision

Council opts to go with successful bidder to operate the Williamson's Lake campground, reversing a decision from their previous meeting.

The dock and Williamson's Lake. Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The inaugural meeting of Revelstoke’s city council is usually reserved for the formal swearing in ceremony, the group photo, announcing committee appointments, some tea and cookies, and a bit of meet-and-greet with the new council.

But, at their first meeting on Nov. 6, there was one item tagged onto the agenda that required a decision: authorizing the new operating agreement contract for the Williamson’s Lake campground. After a bit of back and forth at the table on Nov. 6, the council voted down the staff recommendation to award the contract to Cedar & Spruce Consulting. The new applicant for the campground contract had scored the highest on the request for proposals (RFP) for the new three-year contract (with a two-year renewal option) to operate the campground. Under the contract, the city would get 15% of gross revenue on the city-owned park.

Paddleboarding is a popular sport on Williamson’s Lake. The proposed design includes options for new lockers for watercraft like paddleboards. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

New applicant Cedar & Spruce edged out two other applicants. The first was Revelstoke Resort Shuttle Ltd. The second was Hyeum Properties Ltd., a company that is proposing building a large resort development on the property at the south end of Williamson’s Lake. (See the embedded story here for more on Hyeum’s plans for a private resort next to the public park. The plans were presented to a CSRD planning commission meeting earlier this year.)

Williamson’s Lake wellness retreat originally envisioned as educational facility

Rejecting the staff recommendation to approve the successful bidder was both unusual and usual.

It was unusual because there is significant legal peril for the City of Revelstoke if council rejects the results of formal contract RFPs. The successful applicant can sue the city for successfully bidding on a contract, only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute. And, theoretically, if the RFP was issued again, the results would be the same, or, a rival could adjust their bid and win the contract, once again leaving the door open for the original applicant to file suit against the city. Either way, a city day in court would be a potentiality, with taxpayers left to backstop the bill for legal fees and any damages awarded by the courts.

On the other hand, council’s rejection of the contract was pretty usual for a brand-new council seeking to grab the reins and assert its authority.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, councillors peppered staff with management-related questions about the campground, wondering if the business case could be better.

At their second regular meeting on Nov. 27, council reversed course, this time unanimously voting in favour of awarding the Williamson’s Lake campground contract to Cedar & Spruce.

Mayor Gary Sulz invoked a section of the Community Charter to bring the item back to the table for council consideration.

In discussion of the contract, Coun. Steven Cross indicated he would hold his nose and vote for the contract. “I am disappointed we couldn’t take a business case look at this … I believe our taxpayer is probably out $150,000 to $200,000 if we ran this ourselves.”

Mayor Sulz supported the contract. “In the short term, I think what the staff have put forward here makes perfect sense. We need to get the agreement in place,” said Sulz, citing the need to get the campground operational for next summer now that the existing contract has expired.

Coun. Rob Elliott cited particulars he’d like changed at the campsite, including removing the mini-golf course and some of the lakeshore campsites. “I think they should be reclaimed as public use access,” Elliott said.

In response, city parks director Laurie Donato said that a few of the lakefront campsites had already been removed in accordance with the ongoing plans to transform and update the popular summer swimming hole. Donato said the mini-golf course was a popular amenity. “Kids love it. It’s very well utilized.”

After a brief discussion, the mayor made a brief reference to future options for tweaks and changes at Williamson’s Lake, which was the subject of an extensive planning process, and is slated for a series of upgrades over the next decade as funding permits. (For background on Williamson’s Lake future expansion plans, see the Revelstoke Mountaineer file story embedded below.)

Design options for major Williamson’s Lake upgrade unveiled

In a brief comment, Coun. Jackie Rhind referred to the likely subtext of the reversal: that the new council was briefed on the legal perils of rejecting the results of formal city bidding, proposal and tendering processes: “I had not appreciated the risks of not accepting that contract,” Rhind said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Hyeum Properties Ltd. as a ‘South Korean’ company. In fact, Hyeum is registered in B.C. The company has a family connection to a larger South Korean company by the same name, but is a separate entity in B.C.