Recreation Facility project management decision differed until more information comes forward in the Fall

by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent

Council has decided to put forward a request for information on the pros and cons of hiring an external project manager for their Rec Centre project at their June 27 meeting. This comes following a motion arising in response to a smaller report from Claude Valcourt, Director of Public Works, on the same subject, but short on hard details.

Valcourt explained that evening that a project manager would serve as a representative of Town interests to liaise with the builders and architects, keeping track of potential cost overruns and watching the project’s progress. Managers would also be required to regularly meet with and update administration on how the development was progressing.

Valcourt felt that a manager may not be necessary, as he was confident that administration (including his department could fulfil the role of a project manager in house, by working together with senior leadership to monitor the project.

CAO Andrew Isbister offered Council some information to guide their discussion, explaining that the cost of hiring a dedicated project manager would be likely to cost around 2 to 2.5 per cent of the project cost, somewhere around $600,000. He also recommended to council that they do not hire a manager, citing that in some past projects “found very limited benefit from it”. Specifically, Isbister argued that significant cost overruns on the renovations of St. Germain Place project were caused by a project manager that missed key details Isbister felt administration would have caught if more directly involved. Isbister further noted that he believed administration could handle the project without much difficulty, and they have the expertise required.

Councillor Boutestein was cautious about administration’s capacity to dedicate their full attention to managing the project, saying: “I would have a concern with putting it on the corner of the desk of five different people. I am more than confident you guys can do the job, but it’s adding to your already busy time schedules To add on this big project of $25 Million, I think spending that kind of money; I would be more in favour of hiring an outside person to take this on.”

Councillor Boutestein – among others on Council – noted that CAO Isbister is slated to retire next spring, something that potentially impacts the reliability of performing the project in-house with such a significant turnover.

Councillor Turner said that “we [council] want this project done right” and offered to administration that they should let council know how to best support them in achieving the goals they have for the project moving forward.

Following a divided council with different members arguing opposing sides of the debate, Councillor Dafoe put forward a motion for administration to come back to council in August with a plan for how administration would approach managing the contract, as well as a quote or estimate for exactly what it would cost to hire a third-party project manager.

Mayor Holmes spoke in favour of the motion, saying she could see the argument from both sides of the debate, but that more information could only be a good thing.

The final motion passed 6-1 with Councillor Ladouceur opposed. In the meantime, administration assured Council they would manage the project until either this council, or next, gives them direction on how to proceed.

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