Council tables vote on unforeseen landfill cell construction cost increases

The design for the landfill expansion included in the Request For Proposal by the City of Prince Albert. -- City of Prince Albert

City Council members said they were disappointed with the lack of communication from the Department of Public Works after issues with the Prince Albert landfill cell construction project led to the original budget increasing by more than $450,000.

Capital Projects Manager for the City of Prince Albert Nykol Miller presented a report during Monday’s Executive Committee meeting asking council to approve $755,339 in extra spending from the Sanitation Improvement Fund. The extra funds will cover $452,534 in unforeseen expanses related to buried concrete and waste relocation, common excavation and backfill and construction inspection services. When combined with order changes for electrical pumps and the leachate discharge, the project will cost $755,399 more than anticipated.

Several councillors were upset they didn’t hear about the extra costs until Monday night’s meeting.

Ward 4 Coun. Tony Head said the project overages were a result of “poor planning and poor foresight” by City Administration.

“It’s not a small amount, it’s significant. It’s almost a million dollars and half of that was the fault of our own (employees) not properly planning,” said Head. ““I feel that this could have been managed better. Looking at the additional costs of $452,534, why didn’t that come to Council? Why didn’t we have a discussion on those additions of the project?”

Miller said the reason a Change Order for the concrete removal and excavation and backfill was not brought forward to Council was because the contractor is paid based on what the unit rate cost is.

“Some of the costs are up and some are down,” said Miller. “As I brought forward in my report, there were also bid reductions of $200,000 and until the project is done, we don’t really know where our final numbers stand.”

According to the report by Miller, the buried concrete was not identified by the former Sanitation Manager to the design team when the expansion plan was put into place, even though it was under his management that the concrete burial occurred.

Mayor Greg Dionne said the fault lies with the Director of Public Works and not with City employees.

“It’s the Director that knows the process and the reporting that Council requires,” said Dionne.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski said that something about the City’s processes needs to be reviewed to prevent the same situation from happening again in the future.

“The concrete was discovered before the tender went out. Was there any thought? Was there any consultation within the department to stop the tender from going out at that point until more homework could be done?” he asked. “This is not a small dollar amount and I’m not prepared to support that today.”

Blake Edwards, councillor for Ward 6, said things may have been different if City Council had the chance to discuss the issues before the construction tender was awarded.

In the summer of 2020, the City retained the services of Tetra Tech Canada Inc. to design a municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal cell after determining the existing cells were reaching capacity and new construction would be required in 2021.

In December of 2020, City Administration consisting of the Capital Projects Manager, Operations Manager and the former Sanitation Manager reviewed all options, and it was determined that the best option was to proceed with the expansion of Cell 1B to the north and to rectify the overfilling of waste that had occurred outside the boundary of Cells 1A and 2A.

This option was estimated to generate an estimated 20 years of MSW capacity and was brought forward and approved at the 2021 Sanitation Budget for an estimated cost of $6 million. The tender for the expansion contract was issued on April 1st, 2021.

Shortly before the tender was issued, Administration was made aware that the expansion area of Cell 1B, which was used for disposal of hydrocarbon impacted soil and to compost biosolids from the City’s wastewater treatment plant, had in previous years been used to bury concrete.

To determine the volume of the buried concrete, multiple test holes were dug at the site and an estimated quantity was used for the tender’s bid documents. The report states that this was a unit price where the contractor would be paid based on the actual surveyed quantities multiplied by the bid price.

The tender was awarded to Tervita Corporation for a total cost of $5,680,910.23, including Provincial Sales Tax.

The construction project started in June of 2021, which included the expansion of Landfill Cell 1B, Cell 1A and Cell 2A, with the contractor demobilizing from site in July of 2022.

“When construction projects have variables that are unknown to the designers, they utilize estimates to create the bid quantities that are included in the tender. These estimates are done utilizing engineering best practices, but it almost always results in a positive or negative change to the contract total. This was the case in the Landfill Cell Expansion project,” reads Miller’s report.

Some of the major changes that were experienced during the project that resulted in additional costs were electrical and pumps, concrete removal, excavation and waste relocation, common excavation and backfill due to the additional concrete removal, supplying and installing drainage aggregate, increased contract inspection days and leachate discharge.

The additional concrete and waste removal increased the project amount by approximately $452,534.

The final costs for the project resulted in overages in the amount of $755,339. The estimated Sanitation Improvement Fund balance at the end of 2022 will be a surplus of $1,689,251, according to Miller’s report. The final costs of the Landfill Expansion project will result in an estimated revised value to the Sanitation Improvement Fund balance of $933,912 but will not require any increase to the sanitation rate.

Public Works Director Wes Hicks was not present to answer questions following Miller’s presentation of the report. Dionne moved that that the motion be tabled until the next Executive Committee meeting where Hicks is in attendance so he can answer council’s questions.