Capital projects spark debate

An update on engineering and operations for Sechelt’s public works, parks and environment committee last week prompted Coun. Doug Wright to, once again, criticize the lack of progress on big capital projects.

Wright has often said he thinks projects are taking too long between approval and completion, leading to a backlog that keeps getting worse.

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“We’re biting off way more capital projects than what we can get done in a year… We continue to try and box way above our weight class and that’s a real problem.  People are asking me about these capital projects and asking me, ‘Is it going to get done?’”

When questioned by Coun. Darnelda Siegers about “how he would have staff deal with projects that actually go over multiple years,” Wright said he understands that some projects are, by their nature, multi-year, but others that could be done faster are lagging.

He pointed to the Trail Avenue upgrades, which were supposed to be under construction over the summer.

The update presented at the Sept. 26 committee meeting said engineering consultants are now “preparing options to reduce costs and scope of work to match the allocated funding” and that the project start date has been pushed to next year.

“So here we are sitting in the fall and nothing’s happened with this project except we’ve got the design done. We’re at the same stage we were back in January and February,” Wright said. “There’s a lesson to be learned here. When you trot out a Mercedes, well, you better have the money to pay for the Mercedes. If you’ve only got Chevrolet money, start looking at Chevrolet.”

Siegers said adjusting the scope of projects is normal. “We’re finding that with all the projects we do. The amount it costs is coming in higher, which means our staff have to go back to the drawing board and rework the projects, which delays them.”

Another project that led to some debate at the committee meeting was the construction of a chemical storage facility for the Water Resource Centre. 

The chemicals needed for wastewater treatment are delivered in 1,200-litre totes, and WorkSafe BC regulations require them to be stored in their own space, instead of the maintenance and storage shed where they’re now kept.

Staff came up with three possible options: locate the chemical storage facility in the existing shop and move other activities; locate the facility in a new building; co-locate the facility within the existing maintenance and spare parts shop.

The committee was asked to recommend awarding a $47,500 contract to Brookside MCI to design the new facility.

Siegers asked for the discussion to be deferred to a future committee meeting when the director of engineering could be available for questions on which of the three design options to have Brookside pursue, but the rest of the committee voted against it.

Coun. Alice Lutes said she wanted to move the recommendation forward quickly. “[WorkSafe] has let us know some time ago that we needed to do something about this chemical storage and I think delaying it further is the wrong thing… We need to make a recommendation to council and keep this moving forward.”

Siegers voted against an amendment specifying Brookside should prepare designs and cost estimates for all three options, saying that district staff has already said the third option would likely be unworkable.

The committee recommendation was scheduled to go forward to council at its Oct. 3 meeting, after Coast Reporter’s deadline.

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