Final figures on Town Hall renovations released

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By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Council was given the final price tag on the St. Germain Place renovations at the Nov. 27 meeting of Council. Construction costs, architectural and management fees, and other indirect costs totalled $4,222,647,26. That amount is $687,647,26 more than had been approved prior to Apr. 24 when Council agreed to increase funding for the project to $4.2 million.

Council had held its nose and voted 5-1 in favour of reallocating grant monies to pay for Civic Place renovations in April, but had previously hit the roof Feb. 28 when representatives from ONPA Architects and Synergy Projects Ltd. first delivered the news project costs had escalated approximately $800,000 but would not exceed $4 million.

Final construction costs for the Town Hall and Morinville Community Library space came in at a final price tag of $3,966,763,99, slightly less than the $4 million Council had been assured would be the upper limit. The number did not include the architectural and management fees paid to ONPA Architects, which accounted for another $210,388,35 of the final price tag. Other indirect costs tallied to $45,494.92 and included moving costs, locksmith fees and Order of Magnitude costs.

Claude Valcourt, Morinville’s Director of Public Works, told Council the final cost of construction on the project was $234 per square foot, considerably less than the $400 to $600 per square foot he anticipated building a new facility would have been.

How cost overruns came about

Councillor David Pattison and Councillor Gordon Boddez both took administration to task on the overages. The former, erroneously suggesting architectural fees were to be included in the $4 million price cap on the project; the latter lamenting the extra costs would deprive the community of other projects that could have been funded by Municipal Sustainability Initiative dollars.

Councillor Lisa Holmes said it is a situation Council needs to learn from for the future. “This was very confusing in the information we got because it changed so fast,” Holmes said of the process.

When the cost overruns were first announced earlier this year, the then anticipated $800,000 overage was attributed to changing from forced air heating to radiant heating, a move that added $300,000 to the project’s costs. Electrical system and the Town’s Emergency Operation Centre was then proposed to have added another $200,000 to the project due to additional work on the main panel, the impossibility of reusing the distribution panel system, and the need for additional high panels, conduit and wiring. Structural capacity was indicated to add another $300,000 to the building due to additional framing, columns and foundations as well as significant reinforcement of the roof structure.

While Council was not pleased then or now with the overages, Administration is equally unhappy with how the costs rose as the construction project neared completion. Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun said both Claude Valcourt, Director of Public Works, and Andy Isbister, Chief Financial Officer, were heavy handed with the project team to make sure the construction costs came in under the $4 million agreed to in April.

“There was a lot of hours spent by Claude and Andy in particular going through all of the invoices, all of their books, line by line, and literally nickel by nickel,” Oyarzun said, adding the company was challenged at every step of the way. “There was a lot of manpower hours put into this project to make sure it came in under budget.”

Oyarzun said she is still unsettled by the experience. “When these gentlemen walk in the door, they walk in on tip toes. Believe me.” The CAO went on to say all post completion fixes are being done at no additional cost. “They are fully aware that they need to come back and work with us. There’s a little wear and tear. There are some deficiencies. All of that is being done with no costs.”

Administration believes the renovation project will serve both the Town of Morinville and the Morinville Community Library for the next 15 years.

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7 Comments

  1. The structure is good for Morinville and was by far the smartest move besides purchasing the original property. It is located in the heart of the town and now it looks alive and well again.

    Much cheaper then a new structure and the utility and size is the right size for Morinville through this transition period to city status.
    Ron

  2. And we STILL don’t know whose signature appears on that document which authorized the additional expenditure… THAT, boys and girls, is the REAL problem! If one (or more) members of our Administration is free to commit this type of blunder WITHOUT ANY CONSEQUENCES AT ALL, then it is certainly understandable why Administration is SO reluctant to submit to an independent, third-party operational efficiency review.

  3. I believe while all of this construction was going on I read an article where the Contractors had said they said a proper estimate required alot more demolition to inspect the entire structure prior, but they were denied this and the Town wanted to get moving on this….
    If this is the case then the Town can stop pointing its finger at the contractor and start looking within for who wanted to push ahead against the contractor’s recommendations and own up to the poor and lack of planning that created most of the problem.

  4. Ron… you’re spot-on in what you say, but the only problem is we never knew how much this was REALLY going to cost and I think there’s entirely too much of this sort of thing going on.

    What is it again?

    Oh yeah – Openess, Honesty, and Transparency…

    Seems to me me there’s damn little of any of that going on!

  5. No surprise that this project went the way it did. Comparing it to the last major project that the Town undertook (MCCC) you start to see a pattern of lack of planning, consultation and prudence on the part of the those responsible for making decisions and handing out the contracts.
    Best of intentions is always the motivator to begin, there always seems to be some initial planning and even some studies, but instead of allowing the process with the contractors etc to take the time that’s needed, there always appears this sudden requirement for rush, rush, rush…. ignoring existing plans, denying requests for detailed studies, (in this case a request to demo more in-depth to get a better look at exactly what was needed). It should be no mystery to the Town Staff as to who in the Town Staff is driving this chaos and whose signature is on documents that authorize it. And if public visibility is an issue with the current staff, then one might think that a nice newly renovated building could use some new staff to fill it as well.

  6. Something that the council still has yet to disclose is the means to which the contractor was chosen. The project was never put out to a public tender which is outrageous for a project using public money.

  7. If the contract never went to tender, would there be something within the Municipal Govn’t Act that would indicate a need to bring in the RCMP for an investigation???

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