The Creston Emergency Services Building (CESB) is beginning to take shape on Cook Street as construction continues.
The concrete wall paneling was put up over the last few weeks, giving the building a definitive structure. The schedule for completion is spring 2022.
“We’re extremely pleased to see the building taking shape, with the foundation, walls, and roof in place,” said Mayor Ron Toyota.
“We are looking forward to the completion of this new facility that we can all be proud of.”
Due to COVID-19 sourcing and supply issues, current projections estimate that costs to complete the CESB could be over budget by as much as 13 per cent.
In March, town council formally approved an increase in the construction budget from $5.4 million to $7 million. During that time, no tenders had been confirmed, but the estimated costs were $6.4 million.
Since then, tenders have been coming in at 10 to 25 per cent over anticipated costs. As of Sept. 15 with 98 per cent of contracts tendered, costs have risen to estimates of $7.99 million.
The areas with the greatest cost increases are mechanical (approximately $400,000 higher than anticipated), concrete supply (approximately $300,000 higher than anticipated), windows and doorways (approximately $200,000 higher than anticipated, and finishes (approximately $150,000 higher than anticipated).
“While this is not an optimal situation, it is not completely unexpected,” said Toyota.
“Cost increases are being experienced in the construction industry across North America due to extremely limited product supply. There’s no way around the fact that COVID has impacted the cost and supply of all goods, and there is no data to suggest that will improve anytime soon. We can only plan with the best information that we have right now.”
To oversee construction management, Chandos Construction continues to meet weekly with town staff and community volunteers from the Technical Building Advisory Committee with the aim of reducing costs while ensuring functionality.
“We have also made considerable modifications to reduce costs wherever possible through changing products and methodologies,” said Michael Moore, Chief Administrative Officer.
“Since March, we have reduced $500,000 in costs through value engineering, and we will continue this process. Now that the majority of tenders for the big-ticket items are in, we can more accurately plan for completion at the best possible price and value for our community.”
Federal Government Funding
A recent announcement has included fire halls in an investment category for a federally-funded government program managed by the the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
On Sept. 27, Creston town staff announced that transfer payments through the Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly known as the Gas Tax Fund) could help to relieve construction budget pressure from the CESB.
Since 2019, this is the second year that the federal government has doubled this annual transfer to Canadian municipalities. The funding for Creston will total $560,932.
“We previously had not been able to allocate any of this funding towards the CESB project,” said Mayor Toyota.
“To have received this confirmation now that we can allocate a portion of this funding towards the CESB project, ensures that council can manage the projected construction budget without increasing taxation or utilizing reserve funds that may have been allocated for another capital project. Local governments are responsible for 60 per cent of Canada’s infrastructure, and we are so pleased that we will be able to utilize a portion of the funding for this essential facility in our community.”
To further detail the cost implications of the CESB budget now that the majority of tenders have been received, Town of Creston staff will be referring future decisions to the upcoming 2022 budget process, which begins in November.
Once budget deliberations are underway, options for the current Fire Hall will be explored with the potential of selling or repurposing the property for alternate community use. Allocation for the bonus payment from Canada Community-Building Fund will also be determined at that time.
Council will also discuss funding options to cover construction costs to prevent an increase to taxation or changes to scheduled 2022 capital projects.
“We are so close to this building being finished and move-in ready,” said Toyota.
“Council continues to be committed to completing this project to ensure we can meet the health and safety needs of our first responders, while minimizing financial impact to our community.”
At the council meeting on Sept. 28, Keith Goforth, a resident and former candidate for town council, attended to express his concerns about the CESB budget.
He asked why further updates regarding construction costs being over budget had not been made public prior to the byelection vote on Sept. 18. Last week, a formal declaration confirmed that Norm Eisler and Keith Baldwin will be taking the two open seats on council.
Mayor Toyota responded to Goforth’s question by stating that town council meeting minutes and updates on the CESB project are both posted for residents to read on letstalk.creston.ca.
In the last project update posted on Sept. 3, updated cost estimates were not available as Chandos Construction had not yet finalized the outstanding tenders.
“You have elected to post your own personal comments on Facebook,” said Toyota. “On that basis, I am not going to allow you to proceed and further this discussion because you have made your point. And we have received it. This is my session, as mayor, and we are moving on to other questions from the gallery.”
Goforth said that this response was unacceptable, but he was prevented from asking any further questions.
“The way (the CESB budget) has been presented is deception,” said Goforth, in an interview with the Advance.
“The lack of transparency on construction being over budget could’ve changed the outcome of the election in a major way as to who was voted in. With two per cent still not tendered, there could be more to come. This way of doing things is really not fair to the public.”
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