Dionne calls on city to hire full-time employees in place of consultants

The City of Prince Albert’s plan to rebuild or replace eight pedestrian bridges has cleared the latest hurdle, but Mayor Greg Dionne argues the city isn’t spending its money wisely.

Monday’s motion included approval for hiring consultants ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd. of Saskatoon at a cost of more than $234,000 over the next four years. Although city council approved the deal at Monday’s executive committee meeting, Dionne was vocal in his opposition.

He said the city is spending too much money on consultants, and added that the city should hire them on a permanent basis if they’re so badly needed.

“We’re going to pay a consultant the cost of one bridge, and that frustrates me,” Dionne said following Monday’s meeting. “I’m getting a little tired of all the engineering consulting costs…. Let’s start hiring these people.”

Dionne said the City of Prince Albert currently has three civic engineers on staff. That’s not enough for the pedestrian bridge project, which requires expertise in a variety of disciplines like environmental, geotech and structural engineering.

Nykol Miller, the city’s capital projects manager, told council other cities like Regina and Saskatoon rely on similar consultants for their bridges, and Prince Albert would be wise to do so as well.

“The consultant that the city is recommending has multiple disciplines of related expertise … which unfortunately the city cannot provide,” Miller said during the meeting.

However, Dionne remained unconvinced that city council was getting good value for its dollar. Instead, he wants the city to start hiring their own engineers instead of continuing to pay consultants.

“Maybe it’s time that we spread our wings,” Dionne said. “We’re a growing city, and if we’re going to continue to need these services, well then let’s put them within, and not outside.”

The city plans to build two pedestrian bridges in 2019, however some work on the other six will still be completed this year. Miller said it’s cheaper for things like geotechnical investigations and drilling to be done all at once, rather than over a period of several years.

“The mobilization of the drilling rig accounts for the majority of the (geotechnical) cost,” she said during a brief presentation on Monday. “There’s not a significant amount of cost savings between drilling four holes or drilling 12 holes, but there is a significant increase to the cost if we bring in the geotechnical drill for more than one mobilization. For this reason, we are recommending that all the geotechnical mobilization be completed this year.”

Monday’s motion still has to be officially approved at a regular council meeting.