James White Park Well project over budget

At the Aug. 22 regular council meeting, a report was presented to Fernie Council in regards to the well at James White Park.

At the Aug. 22 regular council meeting, Director of Operational Services, Dave Cockwell, presented a report to Fernie Council in regards to the well at James White Park. The City has been working on a well in James White Park as a potential groundwater source on and off since the 1980s.

While the history of the project is extensive, the City received funding for the project in August 2015, and was awarded the environmental assessment approval in November, allowing them to pursue the project. Since then, the project was budgeted into the 2016 financial plan, and the design process begun. However, the project’s price tag exceeds what the city had reserved to fund it. The City received three bids to complete the project, and even the lowest bid exceeded the City’s budget by $1.6 million.

“The James White Park Wells is a project identified in the 2016 Capital Plan. The low bid price of $3,599,000 exceeds the engineer’s pre-bid capital cost estimate for this project by $600,000. However, the budget for this project was derived from the engineer’s estimate completed for submission of the 2015 Build Canada Fund, which was $1,970,775, a funding shortfall of $1,628,225,” read Cockwell from the report.

Cockwell detailed a number of options for the City in the report, including reducing the scope and therefore cost of the project, retendering the project in hopes of a lower bid, or transferring the funds to another project for the time being. However, staff’s main recommendation was to direct funds from the Water Reserve fund to the project and award the contract to Cummings Construction Ltd. for the price of just under $3.6 million.

The report displayed the financial implications of transferring the funds, which would deplete the Water Reserve fund to $94,000. This would be an issue if the City had to respond to emergencies within the system.

Councillor Phil Iddon was disappointed with the report, saying it is an “absolute disaster financially.”

“This is just a long line of engineering disasters that we have befallen here at the City of Fernie,” he said. “It didn’t allow us to prepare documents to get grant money right and now the taxpayer is saddled with that burden again. We got a pre-engineered estimate that was $2.9 million and now, two months later, it is $3.59 million. In two months, it is $600,000 more.”

Although he cited his disappointment at the cost of the project, Iddon did say he was in support of it.

“I’ve always said, the biggest services we provide is water and sewer, we have to have them. They are essential services, so we need to do this. I support doing this project, but this has been a nightmare.”

The motion to support staff’s recommendation to fund the project was made by Councillor Dan McSkimming and seconded by Councillor Ange Qualizza. It passed unopposed.