Mayor Lyn Hall and council acknowledge that mistakes were made at “virtually every turn” of the downtown parkade project.
Originally budgeted at $12.6 million, the cost is now around $34 million. A legal review of the project has revealed that the original contract signed by the city in early 2018 was not vetted by city staff or council. In addition, the escalating costs of the project were not reported to council in a timely manner and it took prodding from Coun. Brian Skakun to get the full scope of the budget overruns.
Hall said the review, which is on the city’s website and can be found here, provides a complete rundown of what happened.
“When we initiated this, we were looking to find out the facts of the project, the process and the independent review has really shown that,” he said. “
The review also found that the spending authority delegated to the city manager played a role as the sizeable budget increases were within the purview of the city manager’s spending authority. Council has since changed the authority from five per cent of the city’s overall operating budget.
“We passed the delegated authority, which we reduced to $100,000 per project,” he said. “Part of that reduction of the delegated authority will kick in to broader updates (to council) around capital projects.”
He added the initial change to increase the delegated was not due to this project.
“We have a capital project process review underway,” he said. “That is another key piece for us. It looks at our process on developing capital projects … right from their infancy.”
One of the recommendations is to use external management for some of the capital projects and that is exactly what the city is doing with the YMCA daycare that is being built at the site.
Hall has been under considerable pressure over this issue, particularly since The Prince George Citizen discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that former city manager Kathleen Soltis had sent him an email in 2018 about cost overruns. The paper then questioned how much Hall knew about the overruns and called on him to resign. The legal review says there is “no record” that Hall knew of the overruns before the rest of council and the public became aware of them.
Hall added that he has not focused on any potential political fallout from the issue.
“On a political piece … that hasn’t been my concern,” he said. “My concern has been getting this process underway and taking a look at how we can better ourselves when it comes to capital projects.”
He would not say whether the report will result in any disciplinary action for city staff.
“We are really focused on building a better system,” he said. “That’s the important piece for us. This wasn’t a fault finding exercise, we really wanted to get the facts from this. It’s something we can move forward on.”
Hall issued the following statement:
Prince George City Council is today releasing the independent legal review of the underground parkade that has been built between Queensway and City Hall. This review was initiated after the cost over-runs on the project and concerns about the project management process.
We have placed the entire text of the independent legal review on the City website, on a page that provides information about all of the actions that have taken place since I delivered a statement on behalf of Council in January that outlined a number of initiatives that Council was taking in regards to the parkade project.
The web page can be found from the main Mayor and Council web page: princegeorge.ca/council. Residents can read the information, learn what happened, and know what actions have been taken since.
Council takes the findings of the independent legal review seriously and we accept all of the conclusions of the independent legal review. In particular, we are implementing all of the recommendations in the report.
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited as we had initially posted the statement issued by Mayor Hall and council in January. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.