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Councillors concerned with growing costs

$100k-plus of unbudgeted funds needed for city projects

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A pair of city projects has councillors seeing red after they have been forced to fork over more than $100,000 in cost overruns.

The largest of them, the demolition of the city-owned Cowan Barn, is now $136,000 more expensive than the original $40,000 budget approved in 2015.

As explained by Mark Robinson, the city’s director of facilities management, the project first saw additional costs when contamination was discovered beneath the building.

The city brought in Golder and Associates to get to the root of the problem and get a scope of what contaminants they were dealing with. Along with metals and inorganics, materials containing asbestos were also discovered.

It was estimated that approximately 1,000 tonnes of soil would need to be removed and, following analysis, council approved an additional $90,000 in this year’s budget to remove it at a cost of $69 per tonne. New clean fill was also purchased to replace the dirty soil for $18 per tonne.

Yet, the issues did not end there for the city or the contractor.

“Every time he dug the shovel in, there was a little more one way or the other,” Robinson says. “We assumed, incorrectly in this case, that the contamination would be contained within the foundation of the structure.”

Now, the project needs an additional $46,000 to remove the rest of the contaminated soil. The funds are slated to come from the city’s reserves.

Councillor Nancy Diamond, the chair of the city’s finance committee, expressed serious concerns with the extra dollars as proper planning should be done in the first place, rather than looking to the city’s reserves as a back up.

“When I look at the costs on a project, it is so critically important that we understand the project when it starts and we do our best for risk management,” she says.

The city also faces issue with the replacement of the fire main serving the Donevan Recreation Complex.

The project, approved for a full replacement in the 2015 budget for $65,000, saw the main rupture again. When work began, extra asphalt and concrete work along with the installation of a new backflow preventer were required. It requires an additional $54,000.

Councillor Amy McQuaid-England defended staff’s actions, saying the approvals to go ahead with the additional work were permitted under the city’s purchasing bylaw.

“I don’t want this to come across as if staff didn’t take the proper steps necessary, because they did,” she said.