Water upgrades face budget overrun

The lowest bid for a pump-house and other improvements came in at about five per cent over budget

By Keith McNeill

The lowest bid to construct Clearwater’s new Well #3 pump-house project came in at about five per cent over budget, or about $110,000 on the $2.1 million project.

Terry Underwood of TRUE Consulting, the District of Clearwater’s engineers, appeared to be a bit embarrassed by the cost overage.

Several projects he’s been overseeing for Clearwater and other municipalities have also received bids higher than expected, he told town council during its meeting on Jan. 9.

READ MORE: New well gets government funding (Mar. 29, 2017)

Some bids have been much higher.

Part of the problem appears to be that the senior levels of government suddenly released funds for infrastructure projects and then gave only one year for the projects to be completed.

As a result there have been more projects going to bid than there are qualified contractors to do them.

One contract he knew of received only one bid and it was three times what the work was worth – the contractor simply didn’t care if he got the business or not.

He suggested that town council might want to work with other municipalities to get the senior levels of government to be more consistent in funding and to give more time for projects to be completed.

In the meantime he would look at increasing his allowance for cost overruns.

Councillor Shelley Sim suggested the District write to the funding agencies and tell them that having to work to short deadlines was resulting in higher costs and lower quality.

Ken Kjenstad noted that the question of inadequate time to complete projects was brought up at Union of BC Municipalities. He said Clearwater should follow up.

TRUE had made up a list of items in the contract that could be deleted or postponed to save money, said Underwood.

These included not moving a hydrant in Reg Small Park right away. The District’s maintenance crew could do it later and save $1,700.

Another suggestion was not repaving the short roadway into the park. That could wait until the District was doing some repaving elsewhere when the materials would cost about half, Underwood said.

One item on the list that he hoped the District would not delete was a pressure reduction valve for the waterlines serving the Dutch Lake subdivision area.

That valve would reduce the pressure in the lines from 135 lb/sq. in. to 70 lb/sq.in.

Because of the high pressure the homes in the area already have their own pressure reduction valves, the engineer noted.

However, lowering the pressure in the waterlines would also help reduce leakage.

Another item he hoped the District would not cut back on would be a backup generator for the pump.

As with the pump itself, such a generator should be from a reputable company with a rock-solid guarantee, he said.

District CAO Leslie Groulx commented that she hoped the decision would not be to make too many cuts.

Trying to save money in the short term had resulted in long term problems with the septage receiving facility, she felt.

The District has received $1,750,000 in grant funds for the $2.1 million water system upgrade project, with the balance being covered by borrowing that was approved in a negative petition last year.

In the end, town council voted to take $110,000 from its water reserve fund to cover the budget overrun.

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