The question of who pays for how much of the roundabout project near the new Amazon facility in Sidney still hangs in the air after one of the three partners capped its contribution as current cost estimates have risen to $6.4 million, up from $5 million.
North Saanich council voted 4-2 on Aug. 15, with Couns. Jack McClintock and Ceila Stock opposed, to cap its contribution toward the project at $1.1 million with no share of any future increases during construction.
North Saanich’s decision means the municipality departs from the previously agreed funding formula that would see Sidney and the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) each contribute 40 per cent to the project with North Saanich responsible for the remaining 20 per cent.
Orr had earlier floated the figure of $1.1 million as a compromise between $1 million, North Saanich’s original contribution, and $1.28 million, which would have been North Saanich’s share of the new cost estimate under the previous funding formula.
“My thinking is that we do need to demonstrate that we still want to work together with our neighbouring (jurisdictions), in this case Sidney and the Victoria Airport Authority, but with the caveat that because the perceived or actual benefit to North Saanich … is not quite as clearly defined, that our portion of that then perhaps needs to be bridled a little bit in terms of what we are prepared to invest,” he said.
He did note the roundabout would help improve traffic flow in the area, benefiting all area residents, including North Saanich residents.
Public reactions by Sidney and VAA to the decision appear muted.
“The Town of Sidney is aware that the District of North Saanich will be capping its contributions to the Beacon West Roundabout Project at $1.1 million, which is less than the 20 per cent or $1.28 million that was being requested,” said Randy Humble, Sidney’s CAO. “Staff representing all three partners will continue to discuss options for moving forward.”
Rod Hunchak, VAA’s manager of community relations and director of business development, noted “we are continuing to work through the current costs and scope of the project to identify potential savings and look forward to the next level of budget estimation in September.”
Earlier this year, Sidney, North Saanich and VAA announced a memorandum of understanding to build a roundabout at the intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road, as well as realigning Sterling Way in the hopes of smoothing traffic flow in the area. While local authorities have long argued for infrastructure improvements in the area, the pending arrival of Amazon has accelerated plans.
But so have cost estimates in the face of galloping inflation. A consultant working on the project had pegged its costs at $6.4 million in July, with additional changes likely, according to Tim Tanton, North Saanich’s CAO, who had recommended council support $1.28 million with a cap on future increases.
Ultimately, the three partners will only learn the true cost of the project when it goes out to tender, likely in January 2023, he said. “Will the contractors be hungry in January or will prices continue to escalate — we are not sure.”
Sidney Coun. Scott Garnett thinks the latter will happen.
“We started off with a $5 million budget (with) a 35 per contingency built into that,” said Garnett in opposing Sidney council’s decision to pursue an amendment to the funding formula. “Now, it is a 25 per cent contingency and now it is up to $6.4 million. The shovel hasn’t broken ground yet. I anticipate there will be higher costs.”
Looming behind all these figures is an application by Sidney, on behalf of North Saanich and VAA, to a federal fund which according to Humble, could offset the majority of costs.
“The outcome of this grant will be known in early 2023, before the project goes to tender and construction begins,” said Humble. That fund would, among other items, cover Sidney’s additional costs, according to the motion that passed last week at Sidney council.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe said during discussions that the increased cost estimate does not surprise her. “I’m happy that we are seeing it sooner rather than later so that we can plan for it and like Coun. (Chad) Rintoul said, I agree that this is critical infrastructure.”
Coun. Sara Duncan agreed, but also prepared the public for additional surprises.
“There are more uncertainties than usual now,” she said. “This may be our municipality’s version of the McKenzie interchange and what will probably be the Keating flyover.”
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