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City of Powell River awards wastewater contract

Final major contract given for piping to the treatment plant
NEW CONTRACT: Construction on the consolidated wastewater treatment plant is continuing, and City of Powell River has awarded a contract for the linear work for the project, involving the piping to the plant, which would push the budget to $89 million.

City of Powell River council has approved an $18.4 million expenditure for the linear works and lift stations required for the consolidated wastewater treatment plant.

At the September 2 city council meeting, council voted unanimously to award the contract for up to $18,430.314.22, plus GST, to Graham Infrastructure LP, which is the general contractor for the wastewater treatment plant. The linear works will involve the installation of the piping to deliver wastewater to the treatment plant that is currently under construction.

At the meeting, councillor George Doubt said this was the final major contract to be awarded in the construction of the liquid waste treatment plant.

“It provides the lift stations and the piping to get all of the materials to the new treatment plant, and gather from Wildwood, Westview, Townsite and all around the city,” said Doubt. “It brings it in and we’ll use up to the maximum that the city has already approved for borrowing for this project.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said he wanted to say how pleased he is that the project is proceeding on budget, given COVID-19 times. He said he’d heard that Ucluelet did not get to build its wastewater facility because it came in at double the budget, and he believes that the greater Victoria area, which has a large tax base, went over budget by a significant amount.

“I’m pleased to say that given the issues with COVID-19 and the high costs of everything, we were able to pull this off within our limit,” said Formosa. “I’m very proud and happy to say that we were able to go through and actually get it built and take care of the environment around our city and out in our oceans.”

Council carried the motion for the expenditure unanimously.

The total expenditure for the consolidated wastewater treatment plant will come in at $89 million, councillors were told at the August 26 finance committee meeting.

At the meeting, director of infrastructure Tor Birtig outlined the contract bid for the linear work. Birtig said the bid from Graham Infrastructure initially came in at $21.7 million.

“We met with Graham construction staff to clarify some issues in the tender and started looking for some savings as this amount would put us over budget,” said Birtig. “What we are proposing to do is to defer the Artaban [Street] portion of the work, which is approximately $3.3 million, and that would bring the total to $18.43 million for the project.

“We would like to defer the Artaban portion while we look for additional funding. We’ve requested from the grant funders to see if we could get additional funds from them. As of today, I don’t believe we’ve had a response. I believe the federal election is going to throw a delay into that process.”

Birtig said the city continues to negotiate with Tla’amin Nation with respect to a prospective capital contribution for the construction to tie the nation into the consolidated plant.

Birtig said in order to carry this linear work out, the city is authorized to borrow up to $27 million for the project. This means the city would have to borrow the full $27 million.

“We’re also proposing moving money from the sewer reserve of $6 million to bring our available funding up to $89 million in order to do this work,” said Birtig. “In a nutshell, that’s the proposal we’ve put forward.”

Councillor George Doubt, chair of the finance committee, said the linear work bid came in considerably higher than what was estimated, but the city has sufficient funds to construct the project on budget.

“We will use all of the previously approved borrowing power to do that and we’ll be using $6 million of the sewer reserve,” said Doubt. “That might have an impact on rates going forward at some point if we need to use it.

“There are two alternative sources of funding being looked into. One is additional grant funding from the federal and provincial governments and the other is a possible contribution from the Tla’amin Nation for the hopeful extension to the Tla’amin Nation of the whole system. Am I right on that?”

Birtig said Doubt was correct. He said if the funds did come in, the sewer reserve would be replenished.

Doubt said the city is in a reasonably good position.

“I’ve been watching other communities dealing with their wastewater treatment plants and the struggles they were having trying to keep them within budget and get them done at all,” said Doubt. “I appreciate the work that staff is doing. I know it must be difficult work for many of you as the days go on.”

Birtig said the initial $76 million figure for the project that the city put forward for grant funding was more than two years ago.

“We faced the two-year delay with inflation,” said Birtig. “As well, we hit COVID-19, which created all kinds of issues with supply chains and contractor availability, et cetera. We were definitely impacted by COVID-19 and the delayed response for the funding.”