Sewage committee plays catch-up

Politicians on Greater Victoria’s sewage committee will hastily reconvene Wednesday to try to make up lost time on a project that’s already drifting at least two months behind schedule.

The first item on the agenda will be a $711,300 “procurement adviser” contract with Partnerships B.C. to help prepare bid documents and contracts for companies that want to build parts of the $783-million sewage treatment system.

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The Capital Regional District sewage committee, which has been preoccupied with attempts to suspend and review the project in recent months, has yet to debate or approve a deal with Partnerships B.C.

However, the company’s schedule for the sewage treatment project shows it had hoped to start work on certain documents in November.

The committee also has yet to approve a bylaw that would authorize a new independent commission of experts to take over day-to-day decision-making of the treatment project.

Capital Regional District staff had expected the commission to be in place by September or October. Instead, politicians on the committee are fighting with the province to gain more approval power over certain commission documents.

As politicians mulled yet another potential delay at a meeting last week, CRD chief administrative officer Kelly Daniels warned that inflation on construction costs could mean an additional $1 million for every month delayed.

CRD sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell said she doesn’t think that’s happening yet.

“With the things we’re trying to do now, we could probably make up the time,” she said.

Any talk of monetary penalties for delay is “utter nonsense” anyway, said Vic Derman, a Saanich councillor and member of the committee.

“That was, I think, completely hypothetical,” he said of Daniels’ estimate.

Derman said he’s concerned about moving too quickly. He said he’s not sure a proper competition was held for the Partnerships B.C. contract.

“Have we gone out and had a competition for this? I’m sure there are lots of private companies who have expertise who would like to manage it.”

Some of the costs outlined by Partnerships B.C. are also worrisome, he said.

The government agency lists an hourly billing rate of $400 for its president, $325 for vice-presidents and $300 for assistant vice-presidents.

“I look at it and say that’s a lot of money,” Derman said. “Now, is that the going rate? I don’t know. I’m going to have to find out.”

The sewage committee has been dealing with fallout from comments made last week by Premier Christy Clark, who said she’s worried about the plan and has set performance and fiscal milestones for the project to achieve before it receives funding.

Staff and politicians at the CRD expressed confusion over the comments, since milestones aren’t referenced in the government’s initial funding agreement.

The Community Development Ministry said there are three milestones for the project: the substantial completion of the wastewater plant at McLoughlin Point, the substantial completion of the biosolids energy centre and the final operation of the entire system.

“That’s pretty vague,” Derman said.

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