The decision by Yorkton Council at its June 9 meeting to greatly expand upon an already planned construction project along Dracup Avenue is one which likely raised a few eyebrows from taxpayers with their eyes on how the City handles its money.
The base work tender for the project was awarded to G. Ungar Construction Company Ltd. in the amount of $2,243,950 earlier in the year. At that time Engineering Services was also authorized to enter into a contract with G. Ungar Construction Company Ltd. for the Base Work of the Dracup Avenue Channel Upgrades Project.
The project has now been expanded to include replacing two segments of sanitation mains, one dating back to 1976, and the other back to a 1911 installation.
The cost of the added work is estimated to be $195,000 for storm sewers, $2.26 million for sanitary lines, $466,000 for road work and miscellaneous costs of $418,000.
The issue for some will be that Council approved a recommendation from administration to simply add the new work to the Ungar Construction contract by way of a ‘change order’.
The reasoning of administration to use a change order certainly had its merit. They reasoned the crew was already on-site to carry out the existing contract, so they could offer a better price, one which essentially mimicked prices established in the first contract.
But, for the City to take on a $3 million project without taking it to tender never looks good.
Councillor Chris Wyatt raised the concern in Council.
“I’m concerned about a change order this size … It’s never been done before in my time,” he said.
Ultimately, the choice made by Council, while not highly palatable, was the right one, since the work had to be done and it was logical to be done in conjunction with the earlier contract.
One other thing the Dracup Project expansion does is add to the growing evidence Yorkton, like cities across North America are facing what could become an un-financeable burden in upgrading increasingly antiquated infrastructure.
As an example, the majority of the sanitary sewer was installed in the 1950s and 1960s, with an estimate life of 75 to 100 years.
A pipe installed in the 1950s is inching toward life expectancy. Not all need to be replaced immediately, and some might be a candidate for refurbishment (lining) instead of requiring complete replacement, but the bottom line is they will need attention sooner than later, and that attention will come with a price tag.
Now walk around the city and you quickly see many stretches of sidewalk which are in need of attention.
A drive shows many streets need new pavement.
The story line of the Dracup Project being increased by $3 million to address infrastructure deficits is one which will often be repeated in the years ahead.
As these costs rise, the ability of the City to finance the work will be stretched. It is increasingly clear there will need to be provincial and federal dollars brought to the table to fund work not only in Yorkton, but across the country.
It is something all three levels of government need to better plan for now.