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TBM council challenges engineering budget for pump station projects

'I'm wondering why we're paying $2M for engineering,' says mayor, councillor suggests 'turn-key' equipment to cut costs
Town Hall
The Blue Mountains Town Hall

Members of The Blue Mountains council were skeptical about a staff proposal to combine two sewage system projects in an effort to save on engineering costs.

At The Blue Mountains committee of the whole meeting on May 3, staff presented the committee with a report recommending that the Mill Street Sewage Lift Station and the Craigleith Main Sewage Lift Station Upgrades be “bundled” into one project for engineering services. The report outlined that the total construction costs for the two projects was budgeted at $12,110,000.

With engineering expected to be 15 per cent of the total budget, staff requested that $2 million be set as the budget for the project with $1.8 million for engineering and $200,000 as a contingency. The funding would come from development charges and reserves.

The recommendation didn’t go over well with members of council.

“I’m wondering why we’re paying $2 million for engineering,” Mayor Alar Soever said. “I believe there are firms that provide you with a fully engineered solution.”

Manager of Water and Wastewater Services Allison Kershaw said these are significant projects for the town.

“There is a fair bit of engineering required for these stations,” she said.

Councillor Rob Sampson asked staff if they had gone directly to companies in the sewage pumping business to ask if they could provide a solution for the town’s issues at the two pumping stations.

“I would rather get turn-key equipment suppliers,” said Sampson, who made reference to an earlier report council received about issues with the upgrade of the Thornbury Wastewater Treatment Plant caused by mistakes during the engineering process. “I don’t want to go there again.”

Staff explained to the committee that the town’s procurement policies would require tenders for the scenario Councillor Sampson described. In response, Sampson suggested those policies need to be changed.

“It’s preventing us from getting good value,” he said.

A resolution to receive and approve the report was lost in a 3-3 vote, with Soever, Sampson and Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon opposed. Councillor Jim Uram was absent.

This led to some procedural scrambling and eventually a revised resolution to receive the report was passed by the committee, which allows the report to be part of the agenda at the next regular council meeting where the formal decision will be made. 

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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