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Fire hall pricier than planned

Lowest bid still $600k above budget

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa council got a bit of a surprise when the bids for the construction of Fire Hall 6 came in.

After prequalifying five contractors to bid on the newest addition to the city’s fire facilities, the lowest bid came in at more than $600,000 above the budgeted $3.5 million for construction.

Councillor John Aker says despite the higher than expected bids – the highest of which was nearly a million dollars above the city’s budget – council doesn’t have much choice in the matter.

“Simply this – either our budget was too low, or the cost of construction is higher than expected. We have to proceed with this fire hall,” Aker said. “It is time to move forward. I don’t think it’s going to be any cheaper if we re-tender.”

The bids update passed through the finance committee on May 7, and saw the committee recommend to council that the tender process be cancelled and staff work with the lowest bidder – in this case, Gay Company Ltd – to negotiate and find a way to bring the costs within budget.

Fire Chief Steve Meringer says once council passes the recommendation, it will allow them to work with the contractor and architect to make changes to the design to lower the costs. Meringer says it is too early to say what specifically could be removed from the building.

“It will be something that obviously won’t affect the operation of the facility,” he says.

Meringer says the original $3.5-million estimate was based on the cost of square footage when the estimate was put together a year ago. He suggests the fall of the Canadian dollar over the last six months could have impacted the higher bids.

The city has $4 million set aside for the project, $500,000 of which was slated for the design of the building. However, the city spent $250,000 on design, saving costs by using the same architect who designed Fire Hall 5, and moving the plans for an emergency operations centre from the new fire hall to the consolidated operations depot.

This leaves a budget of approximately $3.375 million for the construction of the fire hall.

“I’m confident between us and the architect and whoever we negotiate with, we’ll be able to come up with whatever we need to do,” Meringer says. “We’re in pretty good shape. We’ve just got to make some adjustments and really get moving on it.”

Meringer says he remains hopeful construction can begin before the end of the month.

Councillor Dan Carter, speaking at the finance meeting, urged council and staff to remain diligent.

“I just want to continue to say I hope, and I urge, we come in on budget and on time,” he said.