SACKVILLE, N.B. – Concerns are being raised in the community over a recent spending spree of taxpayer dollars, not only by local residents but also by the same members of town council who have approved a number of costly projects over the past few months.
Town councillors say they are pleased to be moving forward on some important initiatives, such as rebuilding the Lorne Street sports field and upgrading a section of boardwalk in the waterfowl park, but they are worried about the pricetag that comes with them sometimes. The work on the sports field will cost the town over $157,000 while the boardwalk replacement tender came in at nearly $325,000, not to mention the recently-approved green roof for town hall at $130,000.
During last month’s town council meeting, Coun. Ron Corbett said he is well aware of the need to be careful when spending taxpayers money but also pointed out his concern over some of the bids for what should be “modest projects” coming in higher than expected.
Coun. Margaret Tusz-King agreed, saying “it consistently surprises me how much the bills are coming in for.”
Tusz-King suggested town staff look at engaging with other municipalities in the province to see if they are experiencing the same concerns.
“We should see if there are any other approaches other communities are taking (for the tendering process),” she said.
Phil Handrahan, chief administrative officer for the town, said staff in fact have recently widened their efforts for putting out tenders, including advertising in more newspapers and placing the ad on the New Brunswick tender site.
He said their efforts have been successful, and the town has been getting a broad range of prices for recent tenders – including the boardwalk replacement tender, which attracted seven bids ranging from $324,000 to $900,000.
“It’s kind of comforting to know it’s a competitive process,” he said.
Handrahan did state, however, that staff has been noticing tender prices running higher than the initial cost estimates for the project but said perhaps staff might review the timing of sending out tenders – putting them out in the winter instead in the summer during the midst of construction season.
Coun. Bill Evans said council has to sometimes make the tough choice of approving a project, even when it seems costly, because it’s a priority they want to see completed.
“I’m equally frustrated . . .but I don’t know what else we can do,” he said.
Evans said when there are a number of bids that come in, such as was the case with the boardwalk replacement, you can either choose to refuse the bids and put the project aside, or accept one because you want to see it move ahead.
Sackville resident Bill Durant said he was pleased to see council members were concerned about the costly projects and not just spending money without forethought.
“I’m frustrated too as a taxpayer,” he said. “Obviously we have to do projects and we have to move them along . . .but we are spending a lot of money and we have to look at what can we do about it.”
Mayor Bob Berry said council always takes the pricetag of projects under consideration, such as recently making the decision to reject the initial bids that came in for the green roof at town hall because of higher-than-anticipated costs. Later, council approved another company’s proposal for the project, which was $60,000 lower than those first bids.