Budget increase to Sparwood highway construction

Due to unsuitable material encountered in the Highway 43 and 3 Intersection Project in Sparwood, the budget will need to be increased.

Due to unsuitable material encountered in the Highway 43 and 3 Intersection Project in Sparwood, the budget will need to be increased to remove the unusable material and haul in material to fill and replace it with.

According to the director of engineering, Danny Dwyer, in a report to council at a special meeting on October 30, during excavation “unsuitable material which must be disposed of and cannot be reused” was encountered at the development site as well as in the trench zones for sanitary, storm and water.

“I don’t understand how nobody knew that ground was unstable because I remember in the 70s, 90 per cent of that gravel was hauled in there,” commented Coun. Sonny Saad. “Those sandpits were there when I was a kid … and I’m not quite understanding why nobody knew that.”

Dwyer responded, stating that when conducting test holes, suitable material could be found directly adjacent to ground that was too unstable for machines to stand on.

“When we got into the earthworks and the area a good chunk of the south side material was much worse than I anticipated,” explained Dwyer. “[There was] high moisture and flowing sand to the point that they had a difficult time settling equipment on site. We put down swamp mats to deal with that,” said Dwyer.

“We were aware of some soil challenges in this area,” said Chief Administrative Officer Terry Melcer. “But this sub-division is unique as there was no opportunity to move it down the road in either direction, we had to put the intersection at the Highway 43 intersection. Because there was only one place to put that development, we have to deal with the challenges of the soil.”

In his report, Dwyer proposed conducting hourly work to remove the material and replace it with suitable fill rather than paying a premium to a contractor for fixed costs.

Dwyer said that, moving forward, there are plans to apply for the Infrastructure Grant program. If successful, the district could offset half of the costs for next year’s construction from the federal and provincial government.

Barbara Nunes, director of finance, said that the entire project is currently in the budget for $7.8 million and the district is expecting land sales totalling upwards of $700,000 to be committed by the end of the year.

“We will have a little extra cash for next year,” said Nunes, “but we’re really going to have to look at our budget carefully and see what we can do. There may be things we have to delay to make this work because leaving it half-completed isn’t an option.”

The land itself was awarded to Copcan Contracting in June for $2.87 million and the development will eventually house commercial offices and a hotel. New lights will also be installed at the highway intersection as well as a tunnel for resident access to the new development.

The hope is that the development will attract more business to Sparwood.

Coun. Sharon Fraser was focused on dealing with the problem rather than pointing fingers.

“It comes down to the fact that we have to do something about it,” said Coun. Fraser. “You can blame people and run back and forth, but in the end there are areas that you’ll hit really good gravel and just over from it you’ll find something with totally different soil … Nobody’s happy but nobody’s ever happy when it comes to more dollars. You just have to fix it and get on with it. Get it done and be more prepared next time if you’re able to.”