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Cost of Saanich's fire hall replacement jumps to $44.6M

The project was originally costed at $26.6 million and was set to be completed this year.
The current Saanich Fire Hall No. 2 at 4595 Elk Lake Dr. Redevelopment of the site to build a new fire hall has been delayed and the cost has nearly doubled. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The cost of replacing Saanich’s No. 2 fire hall has nearly doubled due to delays, material costs and design changes over the past four years.

Noting it had very little choice, Saanich council on Monday night approved a one-time budget increase to $44.6 million for the redevelopment of the Elk Lake Drive site, a project that was originally costed at $26.6 million.

Mayor Dean Murdock said there were really no other options.

“We have a need for fire equipment through the growing population, we have an aging facility and so there’s really only one path forward,” he said. “Even the option to scale back would ultimately likely cost us more money because of the lost time.”

According to a staff report, the station, built in 1978 to serve Broadmead, Royal Oak and parts of northern Saanich, is significantly under capacity and needs replacement as the population and district grows.

In the spring of 2019, Saanich council approved the redevelopment project with the price tag of $26.6 million and a completion date of 2023.

The project was delayed by permitting and design taking longer than anticipated, which occurred at the same time the construction market on Vancouver Island has seen the cost of construction increase by more than 10 per cent each year.

“Initial predictions assumed a tendering date of 2021; however, the process required more time which has meant the construction tendering schedule has been extended to September 2023,” said Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering. “This extension occurred during a time of unprecedented cost escalation resulting in a higher project budget.”

At the same time, the project’s design has been refined to meet service requirements and building performance that were more costly.

The new design also includes modular accommodation and a new firefighting training facility.

The staff report did offer an alternative that would allow the district to cut down on construction cost — but it would also require a redesign, delay the project further and impact the building performance to the point there may be little savings actually realized.

Murdock said the increase in cost is extraordinary, but not completely unexpected.

“There has been discussion about the inflationary environment and its effect on a number of projects and particularly on the fire hall,” he said. “But this is the first sort of formal opportunity for council to receive that information. This exposes the reality of what anyone hoping to do a construction project is up against.”

Coun. Karen Harper said the situation underlines the fact that the longer things take, the more they cost. “I’m hoping we think of that when we look at other projects … as they come along,” she said.

Machielse pointed out there will not be an additional property tax lift this year as a result of this budget increase.

Saanich has been transferring funds into its facilities repair and replacement reserve fund since 2014 in anticipation of the project.

To pay for the cost overruns, Saanich will use $6 million from its $14.6-million Growing Communities Fund grant from the province, its own reserves and borrowing.

Construction is expected to begin in September 2023 and the project is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2025.

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