Sidney’s decision to combine one major infrastructure project with another promises to protect a local eco-system from unnecessary damage, but also makes a councillor “nervous” for financial reasons.
Council last week agreed to hire QM Environmental to renovate Reay Creek on the basis of a time and material unit rate contract. Earlier this month, the federal government hired that same company for $1.14 million to remediate the pond created by the dam.
Sidney’s decision means dam renovation and pond remediation will happen at the same time, promising both ecological and economic advantages, according to some. Ian Bruce, executive coordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, told the Peninsula News Review last year that doing both projects simultaneously would have financial as well as environmental benefits because crews would have to drain the pond once.
Coun. Chad Rintoul admitted reservations, while acknowledging the benefits including the practicality of hitting a federal requirement to be complete by Sept. 15.
Rintoul’s nervousness relates to the nature of Sidney’s contract with the QM Environmental. Time and material unit rate contracts do not work within a fixed, agreed-upon budget. They instead see signatories agree to unit rates for the time and materials spent. As such, they bear a greater potential for cost over-runs, a point that staff acknowledge, while also trying to ease concerns.
“Although this type of contract reduces the town’s control over costs compared to a lump sum contract, it ensures that the town only pays for work that is completed,” a staff report reads.
The public also heard from staff that they are not aware of any large local project completed under the terms of such a contract. Staff, the public heard, will instead lean on the third party overseeing the pond remediation for overseeing the dam renovation.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer, tried to ease concerns among councillors by pointing that he is comfortable with the terms of the contract. Available estimates place the cost below Sidney’s worst-case scenario, he said, adding that the relatively short time line for the project also lessens the likelihood of cost escalations.
Sidney’s decision to hire QM Environmental for its portion of the work in the area means it will lose its eligibility for grant funding. Hicik said it is better to get the work underway now than to hold it up (with costs down the line) for a grant application, adding that the municipality can continue to apply for grants for other projects.
Sidney’s budget for the project is $900,000.
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