SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville town councillors were floored last week when they heard the news that the bids for the second phase of the Lorne Street project came in at more than double the projected cost.
“This is huge,” said councillor Bill Evans during last Monday night’s discussion meeting. “Finding out something that we thought would be $3 million is actually $6 million. Gobsmacked would be an accurate description of my response.”
Evans said often times tenders come in over budget “and we need to regroup,” but it’s a different story when it’s a project that’s in the millions of dollars. He questioned what staff plans to do about the significant discrepancy.
Town engineer Dwayne Acton reported during the meeting last week that the lowest bid on Phase II of the Lorne Street project, which is part of storm water mitigation efforts and includes the installation of a new retention pond and a new aboiteau structure, came in at just over $5.9 million. Approximately $2.9 million in municipal, provincial and federal funds has been set aside for the work.
Acton said since the bids were “substantially over budget”, the consultant Crandall Engineering of Moncton is reassessing the project to determine if there is a way to rejig the project while still being able to get the desired end result – draining flood waters from the Lorne Street area to the Tantramar River.
“It’s back in the hands of the consultant and they’re evaluating the options,” said Acton.
He said the consultant will consider various measures in the re-evaluation of the project, such as perhaps removing certain items that won’t compromise the project and that might even be able to be phased in at a later date.
Acton said he’s unsure of why the tenders came in so high but did note that it’s a challenge to estimate a project’s costs when you’re dealing with unfamiliar territory.
“It’s a huge unknown when you start digging in marsh.”
He said most of the work has to be done following nesting season (as recently reported from the Environmental Impact Assessment done on the project) so the contactors would be dealing with marsh mud at a time of year when the ground could potentially be frozen, so “it was a very difficult project to gauge in that sense.”
But councillor Andrew Black still questioned why the consultant’s estimate was so far off its mark.
“It seems huge that they wouldn’t have some concept of what was underground and what they needed to dig into to get this tender going,” he said.
Black said he hopes the consultant will bring back “a number of options to provide a sense of where we’re at and where we’re going to go.”
Chief Administrative Officer Phil Handrahan pointed out that the project is complex and it will take some time to come up with a solution.
“I don’t think anybody was pleased about the results,” said Handrahan. “But we need to allow the consultants some time to work with staff to see what options can exist. And as soon as we have a better idea, we’ll bring something back and hopefully have some answers at that time.”
“At the end of the day, council will be the ones to determine whether or not something goes ahead or doesn’t go ahead and at what cost.”
Acton also noted there are a number of unanticipated costs that will need to be budgeted for within the project’s overall budget, which were requirements stemming from the Environmental Impact Assessment process. These include a field survey of the flora and fauna ($7,850), surveying for the aboiteau ($5,350), and a biologist workshop and new renderings ($7,675).