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City of Powell River councillors receive wastewater treatment plant update

Project highlights outlined by city manager of engineering services
FACTS PROVIDED: City of Powell River’s consolidated wastewater treatment plant project is progressing but is dealing with complications brought on by COVID-19 and other factors.

Work on the consolidated wastewater treatment plant is proceeding well, but complexities are being faced, City of Powell River councillors were told recently.

Nagi Rizk, manager of engineering services, at the January 27 finance committee meeting, provided his monthly update on developments with the plant.

“The good news is everything is good on the site, the bad news is things will change,” said Rizk. “It’s a big project. We’re still on track with the funds but we are seeing challenges. COVID-19 is playing havoc on us and now it’s reflected on the workforce and the supply chain, and basically, that translates to money. There are additional costs, but at this point we don’t know how much.

“We don’t know what the delay is going to be. We are working as one team with the contractor and the consultant, which is great.”

Rizk said there are challenges with onsite inspections. He said schedules are being delayed.

“We don’t have inspectors in Powell River,” said Rizk. “They have to fly in or drive in. We can see the effect of the bad news all around us in the world.”

In terms of supply issues, the project has had notices of delays, according to Rizk. He said they are being dealt with as effectively as possible.

Rizk said the city is happy with the plant’s progress so far, and the linear work to connect areas of the city to the new plant. He said the linear construction monthly meeting had been held that morning and there had been discussions about the switchback on the Wildwood hill. According to Rizk, the contractor made the decision to halt construction in inclement weather to be safe for the public.

“You cannot get any better contractor than that,” said Rizk. “It does, of course, impact the schedule.”

Rizk said Willingdon Avenue will be opened up for the linear work, and there have been challenges regarding the archaeological component, so that might be another delay.

“Things are not as we had planned when we ordered the contract,” said Rizk. “I’m not hiding the fact that we might see some changes next month.”

Work on the outfall in Townsite adjacent to the new plant is proceeding, added Rizk.

Similar situation

Mayor Dave Formosa said he was not surprised with some of the issues the project is facing, because he is in a similar business and is running into the same things with projects.

“We’re seeing issues with cost and the reason we’re having delays is because we can’t get certain materials,” said Formosa. “I am not surprised, and I feel comfortable that your team is continuing to keep a keen eye on things.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said when the city plans and budgets, it builds in contingencies that allow for dealing with surprises.

“The heads-up we are getting from you today, is it the kind of heads-up that we are going to see some changes in information, but we are not looking to go out and find more money yet, or the kind of heads-up that we should be writing reports and applying for extra funding?” asked Elliott.

Rizk said there is some contingency money, so right now, the discussion is not about extra money. He said the concern is the delay in schedules.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway asked if there was any way the city could go back to grant providers for cost overruns.

Chief administrative officer (CAO) Russell Brewer said the city has sent a letter to provincial minister of municipal affairs Josie Osborne.

Sensitive area

Finance committee chair councillor George Doubt said Rizk had mentioned Willingdon Avenue as part of a delayed program and asked for clarification on the matter.

Rizk said Willingdon is classified as an archaeologically sensitive area. He said to prove there are not artifacts and other sensitive items there, the area has to be gone through meticulously.

“We have to go through it to satisfy the archaeological branch that there is nothing there,” said Rizk. “If there is something there, we’ll deal with it. We have to set things up properly so when we get the green light from the archaeological consultant, we’re good to go. At this point there’s a little bit of investigation.”

Formosa said he and Brewer had a good meeting with Osborne and there had been a conversation around the issue of funds for the project.

“She asked if we had written letters to support our issue and the CAO reminded her that she received a letter from us, and also explained where other letters went,” added Formosa. “She seemed to take interest in doing some work in looking to see where we may be able to possibly fund some extra funds. It did seem that she might try and help us.”