A suspended water-management contract that's the largest of its kind in Montreal history is once again under scrutiny with word the city will inherit 3,000 meters that are going to be on the verge of wearing out.

The Gazette analyzed hundreds of tender documents for the $355 million contract to install commercial water meters. Mayor Gerald Tremblay suspended the contract this spring after a firm that landed the contract was raided on allegations of tax fraud.

The Gazette found that key elements of the contract had been changed only weeks before the bidding process was to end - changes that never went to city council for approval.

Among other things, the contractor's obligation to look after the equipment was reduced to 15 years from 25, and the city would pay much of the cost up front instead of in installments, The Gazette reported in its Thursday edition.

What's more, the city wouldn't even own all of the water-meter equipment, most notably a crucial telecommunications system that opens and closes the valves of the underground water mains. The equipment would instead belong to the contractor.

Mayor defends contract

Mayor Tremblay, in Montreal North to announce his candidate for borough mayor, said the information was public knowledge.

He told reporters Thursday that he doesn't see a problem with the contract despite the fact he suspended it. But he added the city's auditor-general is within his rights to reach a different conclusion following an investigation.

"If ever there are doubts about the legality ... then I'll act accordingly and cancel the contract," said Tremblay.

"But the information I have today is that the contract is good."

The auditor's report is due out on Sept. 21.