Cashel fury as town gardeners lose out in tendering process

Two Cashel gardeners who have tended the town’s streets and parks for the past 13 years, have lost out on a bid to renew their contract due to procurement rules.

Two Cashel gardeners who have tended the town’s streets and parks for the past 13 years, have lost out on a bid to renew their contract due to procurement rules.

Business couple Margaret Troy and Mark Edwards have worked on contract for Cashel Town Council for over a decade. Last year, the pair helped prepare the heritage town for the visit of Queen Elizabeth and the EU Charter Meeting. Cashel’s image and rankings in the annual Tidy towns competition have been boosted by their work, heard this month’s meeting of the Town Council. However, the local business couple have not been re-hired this year. The contract was advertised publicly, and awarded to a contractor who is not from Cashel.

Councillors expressed “disgust” that the contract was not awarded to Troy and Edwards, given their “perfect record” over the years. Cllr Joe Moloney said they are constantly talking about trying to keep jobs in Cashel. “I am very disappointed. They gave a very great service to this town. They made the town look beautiful. I am very disappointed we had to go outside the town when we have professional people to do it here.”

Cllr PJ Quinlan said it is amazing they decided to change gardeners “mid term”. Both gardeners did “huge work, beyond what is expected.” Martin Browne (Ind) said Troy and Edwards are very upset, “after 13 years”. ”They deserved much better. This is a massive blow to their household. They depended a lot on that contract. I think it was very bad form.”

Cllr Dan Dillon said he thought it was a “high handed decision.” “They were totally dedicated and went out of their way...just to be told at the last moment that they were not successful is a disgrace.” Cllr Martin Browne (SF) said they had worked overtime for 13 years. “Is it possible to go back to Troy and Edwards, to see if they could match that quote?” Cllr Séan McCarthy said the couple have a “proven track record.” He asked if it was possible to change the tendering process so that the contract is based on an interview, along with the bid.

Cllr Eoghan Lawrence said there had been “not one” complaint about the couple’s work in 13 years. “The lowest price is not necessarily the best price.” Cllr Lawrence said he had figures showing the couple had lost out by only about €1,500 to the winning bidder. Troy and Edwards know Cashel better than any others, and that had to be factored into the bid, argued Cllr Lawrence.

Cllr Eddie Bennett said he understood the officials are constrained by the rules of the tendering process. “I’d like to express my thanks to those gardeners. They took a lot of pride in the town.”

Mayor Maribel Wood also said “everybody in the town was happy with their work.” Other gardeners “will take years to get to know Cashel.”

Town Manager Séan Keating said the Town Council was very pleased with Troy and Edwards’ service. “Unfortunately, we are a public body bound by the procurement rules.” The couple were “not fired”. They were under contract. The town had to seek expressions of interest publicly according to the procurement criteria. “I have made it clear to Troy and Edwards that the Town Council was extremely happy with their work. I made it quite clear that this decision does not reflect on the standard of their work.”

Cllr Lawrence said there were 13 bids for the contract. Troy and Edwards’ bid was just “€1,502” higher than the winning bid, which was the third least expensive for the Council, at around €26,000. To lose a reliable contractor for that amount of money, was “a poor decision,” maintained Cllr Lawrence. “That’s not taking away from the people who did win it.” To hear that it was only €1,500 the difference, makes it “far far worse,” added Cllr Browne (Ind). “We do not know the new gardeners, and that’s the whole point.”

Mr Keating said the procurement rules are “rigorous.” If the Council was allowed to always give the job to local people, then they always would. Once a contractor meets the minimum standard required, the bid is awarded on price after that.

Cllr Moloney said he did not accept the decision. “What reference do you need? Now we have people who know nothing about the town.”