Council reallocates funds to pay for Civic Plaza project

A Synergy Projects Ltd. contractor works on the window openings at Civic Place Apr. 24. Council heard the same night the project is now likely to cost $4.2 million, including consulting fees. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Council held its nose and voted 5-1 in favour of reallocating grant monies to pay for Civic Place renovations now estimated at $4.2 million. Council had hit the roof Feb. 28 when representatives from ONPA Architects and Synergy Projects Ltd. delivered the news project costs had escalated approximately $800,000 but would not exceed $4 million. A month and a half later and Synergy still believes the project will be $4 million project or less; however, ONPA Architects’ fees will increase the final project price tag by approximately $171,000.

Morinville’s Chief Financial Officer Andy Isbister told Council Administration had been working with Synergy and ONPA since the Feb. 28 meeting to reduce project costs and to determine just where the cost overruns occurred. The majority of overruns have been traced to three key areas: the mechanical system, the electrical system and emergency operating centre (EOC), and the building’s structural capacity.

Changing from forced air heating to radiant heating added $300,000 to the project’s costs. Electrical system and the Town’s Emergency Operation Centre 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 added another $300,000 to the building due to additional framing, columns and foundations as well as significant reinforcement of the roof structure.

Councillor Lisa Holmes asked just what had been done to reduce costs on the building. Isbister said there were many cost cutting measures looked at. “There were a number of items that were reduced,” Isbister said. “The building has not lost any of its functionality. We’re getting a pretty good deal on this building. We’re going to be proud of it.”
Some of the items cut from the project were a divider partition in council chambers valued at approximately $20,000, a roll up door between the Library’s program room and the downstairs lobby, an item valued at approximately $30,000. Additionally, savings were realized in the front and rear windows as well as some alterations to the upstairs meeting rooms and offices.

Isbister assured Council Synergy has said construction costs, including their management fee will not exceed $4 million, but said those figures do not include ONPA’s consultant fees which are believed to be in the neighbourhood of $171,675. The CFO said Morinville is getting good value for the dollar on the renovation building as the project at $4.2 million is coming in around $210 a square foot, less than half the price of similar projects in other communities.

Councillor Nicole Boutestein was not pleased with the news. “A month ago we had the contractors here telling us it would not be over $4 million and now we have to come up with another $200,000,” she said. “I have such a hard time swallowing the whole thing. Every time we turn around its costing us more money.”

Funding shift will not affect taxes

But while the cost of the project has escalated once again, Isbister is confident it will not affect ratepayers. Originally targeted and approved as a $3.5 million project, funding was to come from $675,00 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant monies, $35,000 in Capital Reserve funding, and $2.8 million in debenture funding.
Morinville has already been approved for $1.4 million in MSI funding this year and had allocated $837,000 of it for five capital projects, including Civic Place. Isbister explained the $211,000 earmarked for the completion of 107 Street improvements could be funded from another provincial grant, allowing more MSI funding to cover the Civic Place overages. The $4.2 million project will now be funded with $35,000 in Capital reserve funding and a $2.8 million in debenture funding as before; however, $1.3 million will now be allocated from provincial grant funding. That figure is made up of $300,000 in 2011 MSI funding in addition to the original $375,000 in 2012 MSI funding. To that number is added an additional $665,000 in 2012 MSI funding, a figure approved with a 5-1 vote of Council Apr. 24. Councillor Nicole Boutestein cast the only opposing vote. Councillor Gordon Boddez was absent from the meeting.

Further opening delays

Isbister told Council a May 15 completion date was unlikely due to a number of delays in receiving project materials. Synergy is now targeting an occupancy date of approximately June 15. He anticipates the Morinville Community Library would open around June 30 due to the additional time needed to install new shelving and stock them with materials.
When completed, the building will house 21 Town of Morinville staff members but will have capacity for 41 work stations.

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  1. Pardon my tongue, but what the hell is going on in this town? How is it reasonable to spend $1300 per household on a high end town hall renovation? We could have easily had a brand new building for that, yet we needed neither.

    I hope we all can take good notes on this and demand some FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY from council and administration.

    It’s very nice that Andy Isbister, the town CFO, will have a nicely appointed office when this is all done. I’m sure he will be very fretful about his impact on property taxes to residents of this town as he sits in his house in Fort Saskatchewan. If he knows so much about construction costs and what is ‘good value’, did he originally sign off on this project KNOWING that the cost targets were unachievable?

    Do not be fooled by the double-talk that says “taxes will not go up because of this”. We will pay for it, funding is just being taken from other projects the town needs. Did you think walking trails or sidewalk repairs might make the town more desirable? Not going to happen now, the money is being spent on a town hall. I’m very curious as to why nobody has breathed a word about what money they are going to use to FURNISH this place and buy new equipment? This will, again, come out of funding that we could use to benefit the residents of this town.

    It is highly doubtful that a town hall will attract new residents to Morinville, and it pains me to see the town thinks its a great idea to add extremely expensive high-end touches like radiant heating and aluminium doors instead of things that might benefit the residents and taxpayers of this town.

  2. I believe that some of the cost cutting comes at the cost of the library furnishings- chairs, tables, desks, shelves, etc. It will be fantastic to have a new building, but not if it is empty. Please consider donating to the library to be sure that we all have a wonderful place to share. Stop by the parish hall to see how you can help.

  3. Perhaps the reason no one else has submitted a comment is that everyone in this community is just sick and tired of the crap this council is putting us through!! More money, more delays – just like the dog food plant fiasco.

    Maybe we should rename the plaza “Bertschi’s Blunder”, in honour of the “leader” on whose watch this (as well as other) significant over- spending events occurred.

    I have only a couple of questions:

    1. Whose signature physically appears on the authorization for all the cost overrun items? Assuming there is one, that individual (or those, if more than one appears!) should IMMEDIATELY be fired – for incompetence if nothing else.

    2. If there is NO signature or NO authorization, then the contractor obviously took it upon himself to undertake these “changes” on his own and should therefore be financially liable for them – yes/no??

    3. Does Isbister even live in Morinville?? His cavalier reaction to this whole issue tells me he definitely does NOT have the good of the community at heart!

    How about this for an ad in the Edmonton newspapers:


    Thank God for photo radar – we should have this latest little problem paid off in no time!!

    What folly!! What a bloody farce!!

  4. What a joke, next time they are handing out blank cheques I’ll make sure I’m in line

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