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‘The three bids took us aback’: CAO says of water plant costs

According to information released by the town on Sept. 12, updated cost estimates for the project are $270 million, with an extended timeline to completion of 2028
A rendering of the new membrane building design for Collingwood's water treatment plant on Sunset Point.

Town staff and council are still feeling some sticker shock after receiving the bids for building an expanded water treatment plant, which is ballooned the estimated costs to nearly $300 million. 

Collingwood’s chief administrative officer Sonya Skinner offered an update on the town’s water treatment plant expansion on Monday night, following shocking news last week that cost estimates for the project have more than doubled since last year.

During council’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 25, Skinner discussed the path forward on the project which the town is now estimating will cost $270 million, more than double the 2022 estimates, with the timeline to completion also extended to 2028.

“We contemplated in our confidential internal estimate that bids would be higher than our 2022 estimate as the world has continued to adjust to the realities of the post-pandemic environment, supply and worker shortages. Municipalities continue to compete for resources,” said Skinner.

“Nonetheless, the three bids took us aback.”

Skinner said many municipalities across the province have seen similar infrastructure project cost increases.

“It didn’t make it any easier for us to open those bids and see those prices,” she said.

Three bids received Sept. 12 from pre-qualified contractors started at $212 million.

In March 2022, the estimate for the construction of the treatment plant, which will provide drinking water to Collingwood and New Tecumseth, was $121 million, with an expected completion date of 2026.

Following receiving the bids on Sept. 12, talks began between municipal officials and provincial and federal decision makers to discuss financial support.

“It really makes sense for other levels of government to contribute to enable what the collaborating municipalities cannot do alone,” said Skinner, adding the infrastructure is important to make sure Collingwood can meet provincial growth targets.

“We will aggressively act on any grants that become available,” she said.

The total cost, based on the unofficial bid information, is now estimated around $270 million. This is the second time the estimated construction costs have doubled. The March estimates jumped from about $60 million to $120 million.

The town's water treatment plant has been nearing capacity, running over 80 per cent in 2021. Though now lifted, the town implemented a moratorium on new development to protect the remaining capacity. New builds had to go through an exemption process so the water capacity could be allocated.

Since then, the town has added some more capacity with more infrastructure at the plant, but the plan was to have an expanded treatment plant operating by 2026.

On Monday, Skinner said a report to include the final projected costs and recommended next steps will be forthcoming to council in November. She said the bids are valid until Nov. 11.

“Upon award, construction could start in November,” she said.

Skinner cautioned against not awarding the contract to any of the bidders.

“The fallback from a non-award is more scary. It would stymie growth immediately,” she said.

Following Skinner’s comments, Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer asked for clarification on the costs.

“It’s not clear to the public that the $121 million was a 2022 number. It wasn’t an estimate for what it was going to cost in 2026,” he said. “We’re going to build this plant while our other plant is still operating. It’s a costly and careful process.”

For more information on the water treatment plant expansion project, click here.

With files from Erika Engel.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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