Sewage project delays could cost $1 million a month, official says

Greater Victoria’s sewage project is close to falling behind schedule and incurring a million dollars a month in extra costs, says the civilian commission overseeing the project.

Chairwoman Brenda Eaton said Friday that with politicians yet to authorize rezoning for a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, staff have been conducting a line-by-line analysis of the $783-million budget and schedule to examine the situation.

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“We estimate that a one- month delay is $1 million,” Eaton said.

“So if the decision is delayed and delayed [on rezoning] and it starts pushing against our schedule to be able to deliver in 2018, then it’s about one million a month. We’re getting very close to that.”

Specifics of how that $1 million was calculated were not immediately provided.

A rezoning deal that would have allowed a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt fell apart at a Capital Regional District sewage committee meeting this month.

Politicians were concerned about potential costs arising from an Esquimalt demand to barge construction materials to the site.

They will vote again on the issue Dec. 11. Any deal would need to go before a public hearing and council vote in Esquimalt.

“The decision to defer it … that’s not the end of the world. But if we were to get into months, then it’s about one million a month,” Eaton said of the financial impact of delays.

The main pressures on the $783-million budget are the small remaining contingency fund, and the tight timeline to award contracts, begin construction and finish the entire project by 2018, Eaton said.

“All I can say is we’re starting to feel that we’re going to soon bump up against some of those walls,” she said.

Politicians have also expressed concern that a decision not to allow sewage sludge to be spread as fertilizer on land could force construction of a $38-million incinerator, not covered by the existing budget.

The civilian commission of experts in charge of day-to-day procurement and construction of the project approved millions in new consulting fees on Friday.

The commission voted unanimously to authorize another $7.8 million in consulting work for Stantec.

Stantec has a nine-year consulting contract on the CRD project, and is projected to bill between $40 million and $43 million by 2018.

Project director Albert Sweetnam said the costs are reasonable and within the budget.

The commission did not vote to authorize a $1.6-million communications contract for Acumen Communications Group.

Instead, it approved $200,000 for Acumen until February. Acumen had previously held a $50,000 public relations contract that expired this month, but Eaton said the new work is different in size and scope.

“We just needed a bit more time to finalize the plan and finalize all of the numbers,” Eaton said.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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