Morinville Councillors angered by $640,000 in unanticipated project costs

by Colin Smith

Unanticipated costs of $640,000 for Town of Morinville construction projects will require the reworking of the 2021 Capital Budget.

The costs include an extra $355,000 for 100 Street improvements and East Boundary Road trail work done in 2020, as well up to $285,000 more for a redesigned Park Pavilion, doubling its price.

Council learned of the cost increases through a report presented at its May 11 regular meeting by Iain Bushell, General Manager, Community and Infrastructure Services.

Bushell told Council that an additional stormwater connection was required beneath 100 Street. In response to neighbourhood concerns, a retaining wall was added to provide bank stabilization on East Boundary Road and improve operational efficiency.

The Park Pavilion is one of three projects included in the 2021 Capital Budget in the vicinity of the former Ray McDonald Sports Complex, now referred to as the Destination Area.

The others are the Outdoor Multisport Facility, an outdoor ice rink, projected to cost $395,000, and the replacement of the Splash Park, with a price tag of $255,000.

These projects are funded by federal and provincial Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) and provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants.

The Park Pavilion is intended to provide an area from which to view the Splash Park and the rink, as well as offering participants a chance to cool down or warm up.

Additionally, it will house washrooms and the mechanical equipment for the Splash Park fountains and the rink. An adjoining maintenance garage will also be built.

Park Pavillion Doubles In Price

According to Bushell, the price increase for the Park Pavilion, from $285,000 to up to $570,000, results from an initial design for the proposed structure that was inadequate.

When an engineering review of the design was conducted before the project was put out for tendering by contractors, it was discovered that it did not meet the Alberta Building Code and needed improvements.

While the budgeted $285,000 for the pavilion came from an MSP grant, the Town would have to come up with the additional money. Similarly, it will have to find the funds to cover the 100 Street and trail work.
Bushell’s report included recommended options for the necessary financing.

For the 100 Street improvements, $289,750 would be reallocated from the 2021 Missing Links Trail (The Lakes) project, with the remainder coming from unused funds from previous years’ MSI grants.

Concerning Destination Area projects, $255,000 would be reallocated from replacing the Splash Park to the Park Pavilion, with $30,000 of preparatory work to be completed by Town of Morinville staff and equipment.

The rationale for moving ahead with the pavilion first is that it is intended to be the focal point of the Destination Area, and so the other elements should be designed around it. Also, the Splash Park could be operated this summer at a limited capacity, as it was last year.

Some Councillors Upset By The News

However, several councillors were unimpressed with this option for the Destination Area, having expressed their consternation at the abrupt rise in the price of the Park Pavilion.

“I am certain that I am not alone, and I am trying to contain the anger that I feel at the moment, that once again Council is being blindsided, seeing this in the agenda package with no heads-up,” said Councillor Stephen Dafoe. “We are going from a $285,000 building to one that is more than half a million.”

Declared Councillor Scott Richardson, “I’m extremely frustrated with this information as presented. It was quite clear that the Splash Park was a priority.”

“I’m feeling more than a little blindsided,” said Councillor Rebecca Balanko.

Balanko wondered if there was an opportunity to scale back the Park Pavilion.

“That splash park is a priority,” she said. “It was a promise made and needs to be a promise kept.”

“I echo absolutely everything that everybody has said so far,” stated Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein. “I am frustrated as well.”

When the question was raised about prioritizing replacement of the Splash Park for this year and postponing construction of the pavilion to the future, Bushell stated that the MSP funds for the pavilion (along with the Outdoor Multi-Sport facility) must be spent this year, or they would be lost. The MSI funds devoted to the Splash Park could be spent at any time.

In response to a question from Councillor Dafoe, Chief Administrative Officer Stephane Labonne said he would check with the Provincial Government to see if it is possible to repurpose MSP funding.

Councillor Lawrence Giffin proposed that funds budgeted for curb extension on 107 Street could be diverted to the Discovery Area projects because that intersection is already safe.

“If we are going to try and find some economies, this is a potential way of doing it,” he said.

Discussion of the matter will continue at Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting this coming Tuesday, following a motion to refer it by Councillor Stephen Dafoe.

“Administration has presented some options,” said Mayor Barry Turner. “Council is looking at things with a bit of a different lens. Let’s move the conversation forward.”

Council will discuss the matter at their May 18, Committee of the Whole meeting.

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  1. One would think an engineer would have already confirmed the building codes were met initially after the design was completed and not many months later and into a new fiscal year! 😱

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