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‘How did we get it so wrong,’ Coun. Skakun on $5 million parkade cost overruns

Brian Skakun is seeking his sixth term on city council.
Coun. Brian Skakun

Hot off the heels of the announcement the new firehall will cost an extra $2 million, the community learned this week that the George Street parkade project is more than $5 million over budget.

And the project isn’t complete yet.

The news came to council via the city annual report. The project, originally budgeted at $12.6 million, has now cost $17.9 million and, as mentioned, the project isn’t complete.

The reasons for the cost overruns, according Coun. Brian Skakun, include dividing the parkade into two projects because they had to deal with fibre optics that in the ground prior to the project; wrapping the project in a ‘bathtub’ because of water seepage and the requirement of a pumping system as it is below the water table.

Skakun, along with fellow councillors, are not happy with the revelation.

“I’m concerned with the cost overruns,” Skakun said council Monday. “I’m just wondering how we got it so wrong. I can appreciate the (increased) cost of labour … but I really challenged with this.”

He pointed to the Willow Cale Bridge project and the Second Avenue Parkade projects that were also over budget.

“We’ve had projects with significant cost overruns without, in my mind, a lot of clarity as to why the cost overruns are there, why they weren’t included in the original budget.”

Council does have a bylaw in place allowing the city manager to approve increased costs for projects and to change the scope of projects.

“The intent (of that bylaw) was never to allow the city manager to change the scope of a project, or add millions of dollars to a project after council okayed the budget,” said Skakun.

He called for a detailed breakdown of exactly what the overruns were.

“We have COVID hitting us and we have millions of dollars going out the door that should never have gone out the door,” Skakun said. “I want a complete breakdown on the cost of the parkade … There’s going to have be some changes.”

Coun. Kyle Sampson said he was also frustrated with cost overruns on city projects.

“My frustrations are with what lies ahead,” he said. “How can I believe, when we get these proposals, that they’re going to be coming in on budget? How can I rightfully vote on something and believe that is going to be done to scope and on budget?”

Coun. Terri McConnachie agreed it was a ‘significant’ overrun and it’s problematic that council is out of the loop.

“My greatest concern, even as great as the overrun, is the lack of being in touch as a city councillor and the lack of knowledge prior to this hitting a (council) agenda,” she said. “… We’re just doing our jobs by asking the questions and insisting that we are part of the whole process when it comes to these projects … Moving forward there has to be more communication. We need to have far more input.”

City manager Kathleen Soltis told council that a report was presented to the finance and audit committee last November that outlined the status of capital projects.

“In that report there was quite a lengthy table which showed all of our projects that had budgets of $1 million or more and approved amendments and this project was in that list,” she said. “… It also included my amendment, close to $5 million, that I had done through delegated authority.”

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