An investigation into Tomlinson Group’s management of an Osgoode landfill has some city officials questioning whether the firm – one of Ottawa’s largest heavy construction companies – should be allowed to bid on future municipal contracts.
On Thursday, the city’s auditor general released a scathing report on the Springhill Landfill that flagged environmental concerns and questions about royalty payments owed to the city.
“This has not been a good partnership for the city,” said auditor general Ken Hughes in a statement. “Tomlinson Waste Management gets most of the benefits while the site is operating, and the city assumes most of the risks and costs on closing.”
In his report, the auditor general recommended that the city “consider whether Tomlinson is a good business partner for this project and for future endeavours.”
Following the report’s presentation, councillors on the city’s audit committee asked staff about the mechanisms of blacklisting a company from future bidding opportunities.
In their responses, city staff highlighted that the Tomlinson Group has multiple city contracts and “overall have a very strong performance record.”
For its part, the Tomlinson Group said it would closely review the auditor general’s report.
“We have every intention to move forward in partnership with the city to address all of the issues and concerns raised so that the path forward is one of strong cooperation and one that is in the best interests of Ottawa residents,” said Michael Clement, the general manager of Tomlinson Environmental Services, in a statement.
The public-private partnership with Tomlinson dates back to 1996 and was initially signed with the former Osgoode Township. It was inherited by the City of Ottawa following amalgamation in 2001.
While the initial agreement was intended only to handle waste from Osgoode Township, it was later expanded to include construction and demolition material, primarily from Tomlinson-associated companies.
According to the auditor general, Ottawa has received $6.3 million in royalty payments over the past two decades. However, the initial clean-up costs of the contaminated site – which has leeched liquid into surrounding properties – could run as high as $8 million, plus millions more over the next 40 years.