On Tuesday, June 30th, Carleton Place council held a special virtual session instead of starting their summer break. On the agenda were several capital works projects that saw costs ballooning past original staff estimates.
The first involved a new playground at the town’s Francis Street Childcare Centre. That facility has been undergoing a major expansion and part of provincial regulations require additional outdoor play areas when attendees increase past a certain level. The addition will create 88 new spaces and require 15 more staff positions. The province flowed $2.9 M through Lanark County for the entire project. The play structure was included in the original plans at a cost of $250K, but of the 6 companies that were contacted to apply, only 2 completed a bid and the lowest estimate was almost $464K. Daycare management and town staff managed to whittle that down somewhat, but still needed another $150K. Council approved this overage to be funded by development charges and reserves.
Next on the price surprise list was the Bridge Street pumping station. Originally $900K was budgeted for this job and 4 bids were received as part of the tendering process with the lowest coming in at $263K more (including admin and inspection costs). This too was approved with funding to come from water and sewer reserves.
The final straw involved the upgrades to the bridges at McArthur Island at the end of Princess Street. These 2 spans (known as the back bridges) were to see remediation of their support structures as well as a new river crossing for water and sewage mains. This project was to be completed this year in order to handle additional traffic and municipal service needs when the central bridge was to be out of commission next year for its total replacement. Only 1 bid came in at just over $3.2M which was twice what staff had budgeted for.
Public works director Dave Young reported that staff had contacted several companies that usually bid on this type of work for the town and were informed that all of them were at full capacity with other projects and didn’t have the resources to take on any more work. He noted that the construction shut-down earlier this year as a result of the pandemic and the amount of major projects being done in Ottawa have created a perfect storm of increased construction costs for smaller neighbouring municipalities. Rather than covering this major cost overrun, Young recommended that the back bridges work and the central bridge replacement be put off for a year to hopefully obtain more competitive quotes with lower prices. Deputy Mayor Sean Redmond remarked that this delay might be a blessing in disguise as it would provide some relief for downtown merchants struggling to keep their financial health in the midst of Covid-19 restrictions. So rather than seeing vehicle traffic removed from Bridge Street next year, the project could be slated for 2022. At the end of the discussion, council approved a motion to reject the bid and delay the work.