Council spends $400,000 to cover unexpected infrastructure costs

City of Prince Albert/Submitted

Prince Albert city council has approved nearly $400,000 in spending to cover extra costs associated with the Zone Two Pumphouse Upgrades Project.

According to agenda documents, city crews finished the project in April 2018, but still required approval to cover a number of extra costs. Those bills were already paid, but administration still required council’s approval.

The biggest extra cost came in Fall 2017, when a critical fill line for the Marquis Road Reservoir unexpectedly began leaking while the old Second Avenue Pumphouse was being demolished. Other extra costs included things like crown utility upgrades, engineering fees and sidewalk replacement.

Jeff Da Silva, the City’s engineering services manager, called the project a “tricky upgrade” that went as well as could be expected.

“There were a lot of tie-ins to old infrastructure and we had some challenges with valve failing our on the fill line for the Marquis Rd Reservoir,” Da Silva said during the most recent city council meeting. “That required a lot of on-sight work and a lot of coordination between contractors and city staff, which took a lot of the inspection time work for it.”

City manager Jim Toye said such costs would normally be covered under a contingency plan, which adds an extra 10 per cent to the original budget request to pay for unforeseen problems. There were no contingency funds in place for this project before it started.

The additional $400,000 is smaller than the traditional contingency would have been, if council had approved one. Projects typically receive an extra 10 per cent to cover unforeseen costs, which in this case would have amounted to $617,000.

The news caused some concern at council, since the Utility Fund used to pay for the project showed a $6.4 million deficit at the end of 2018.

“I don’t know how you can get money out of a deep hole that is already empty,” said Coun. Don Cody, one of several city councillors less than pleased with the news.

Planning for the pumphouse project started back in 2015 when administration discovered significant corrosion in the Second Avenue Pumphouse that was severely limiting its capability to provide water for West Hill residents. Administration then completed its first hydraulic assessment since 1974, which showed “serious deficiency” in the system. In a worst-case scenario, those deficiencies could have caused the distribution system to dip below the minimum pressure required to keep the pumphouse operating safely.

The total project cost was slightly more than $7 million.