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.