By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The history of Oshawa’s consolidated operations depot (COD) is a rocky one, but the latest news from the city appears to be on the bright side.
The project is set to come in on or under budget, according to Mark Robinson, the city’s director of facilities management.
At a recent meeting of the community services committee, Robinson explained there is approximately $300,000 worth of projects at the COD for 2016, the majority of which are discoveries of inefficiencies found after moving staff into the building last year.
“Through the process of moving staff into the facility, we’ve identified a number of additional requirements,” Robinson said.
These issues include “significant” ponding problems – pools of water where vehicles are being cleaned because the floor is level and doesn’t flow to a drainage area – in the fleet area, Robinson says, which could cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to fix.
As well, additional venting is needed in parts of the warehouse and welding areas, which are set to be addressed this year.
However, more work is still down the road.
“So there’s more than $300,000 worth of work, but we’re going to prioritize,” Robinson says, noting the most urgent health and safety issues are the top priority. “We’re also going to then plan the remaining in future capital.”
According to the city’s budget forecast, which includes capital projects stretching through to 2024, the city is slated to spend $25,000 on duct waterproofing, $20,000 for interior alterations, and $23,000 for fleet mechanic tools, all for the COD. Also, the year 2020 has $250,000 slated for window replacements at the COD.
Mayor John Henry says the COD budget is a good news story for the city, and that the need for a new depot has existed for some time.
“Oshawa has needed a depot. It goes back to the first time they started looking at this in 1997,” he says.
Meeting future needs was a main motivator behind Oshawa pursuing a consolidated depot when the process first got underway in the early 2000s. The savings were another aspect.
In 2012, a city report stated the city could realize as much as $325,000 in savings annually by consolidating its depots. However, that estimate included the fact that the parks department working out of the depot on Farewell Street would be brought into the COD. This didn’t happen.
Then last year, a city report stated the cost savings estimate increased to $550,000.
Jag Sharma, then the commissioner of community services and now city manager, said at the time that the majority of the savings was achieved through the gapping of four positions and the repurposing of another four.
Overall, the city achieved approximately $1.2 million in gapping savings in 2015. However, this year, that number has decreased by more than $855,000. It is unclear how many, if any, positions filled in 2016 will be at the depot.
Also after last year’s report, Henry stated that what was left out of the $550,00 savings estimate was the amount of money that would have needed to be spent on the Ritson depot to bring it up to speed. The repairs to the aging building were estimated to be approximately $700,000 in repairs over the next five years.
Now, new numbers in the city’s capital forecast predict that from 2016 to 2024, $560,000 will be needed in repairs to its remaining depots, $395,000 of which is slated for the parks depot, originally slated to be consolidated within the COD.
When questioned on newer estimates for savings, Mayor Henry stated that it is difficult to compare saving estimates from years ago to today due to ongoing growth in the city.
“You can look at savings two ways. Our ability to deal with all the additional growth in the city within the current operating budget is one form of savings,” he says. “To quantify the savings four years ago when we started this project, those numbers were based on the population and the size of the city. When you look at the growth of this community and where we have gone in the last four years, we’re leading the country in new home development and resales.”
Henry says due to the increased development and the amount of work that entails, trying to compare original savings estimates may not work, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that project meets the needs of Oshawa.
“It’s a great project that meets the needs of this city for the next 25, 30 years, maybe longer,” he says.
When asked, Mayor Henry did not say whether an updated report would be made to quantify the depot’s savings.