Despite botched contract, city says it completed spring street sweeping work

City staff say they have managed to sweep Toronto’s streets and highways this spring, despite botching a deal to contract out some $300,000 worth of work.

CBC Toronto first reported last month that one company won the lucrative contract to clean most of the city’s 5,000-plus kilometres worth of roads but didn’t have the vehicles needed to do the work. It appears that company, Bolton Ont.-based Rafat General Contractor Inc., will not be punished for failing to complete the work it bid on.

“A final contract was not executed with the bidder and no monies were provided to any contractor,” city officials said in an email to CBC Toronto when asked if it would penalize the company.

Environmentalists warned failing to properly sweep the city’s streets this spring would lead to more toxic runoff in sewers, waterways and eventually Lake Ontario — concerns backed up by the city’s own research.

Officials say they’ve managed to get the job done, though.

“City staff satisfied the approved service levels for street sweeping on all city roadways,” staff said.

Staff say it verified the work was completed through GPS data, manual documentation and visual inspections — however, that information could not be provided to CBC Toronto. Work on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway was done on weekends and overnight in April.

City officials say they have seen an increase in the amount of litter in the city this spring. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Following the spring cleanup, arterial roads are set to be cleaned twice a month, collectors once a month and local roads once every two months. In recent years, the city has missed that target and is currently using 35 sweepers to complete the work it once had 50 machines to do a decade ago.

Most of the spring cleaning work was done using 30 Tymco 600 sweepers the city owns that were purchased in 2020.

So why, if the work could be done by city crews, was Toronto ready to spend $339,000 on a contractor?

Officials now say they chose to use the city’s sweepers to do work typically done by contractors running mechanical sweepers — said by staff to be better for clearing heavier debris that’s difficult to clear — as a test.

“City staff have determined that the equipment performed well during spring clean-up work and staff will continue evaluating the effectiveness of the equipment and will also consider all maintenance and performance indicators as a result of using the city’s in-house fleet during spring clean-up work,” staff said in an email.

This comes at the same time as the city has hired consultants to evaluate its street-sweeping program. 

One consultant, through the University of Toronto, is reviewing the program’s effect on air quality, while another is reviewing operational issues.

It remains unclear how much the city will spend on the consultation work, which councillors first found out about last December.

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