Whether it’s the sinking Canadian dollar or an inflation explosion, one truth is known: the City of Trail will not have a second bridge anytime soon.
Trail council unanimously agreed Monday night that the cost to build the pipe/pedestrian bridge is way out of reach following five bids that were, on average, $5 million above the expected $10 million cost.
Trail Mayor Mike Martin opened the council meeting, addressing the high tender prices made public during an Aug. 5 open tendering.
“They are significantly above the budgeted amount that had been approved by the residents of Trail through a referendum and the engineering estimate associated with that,” he began, referring to the Aug. 2014 referendum that allowed the city to borrow almost $5 million for the project.
“I just want to assure you the situation is totally unacceptable and is taken very seriously by all members of council,” Martin continued. “I fully expected, in a few weeks from now, we could’ve actually seen the breaking of ground and the start to the new pipe/pedestrian bridge. So this has all been a huge disappointment.”
But the upset doesn’t stop there.
Martin questioned how Trail can move forward to replace the sewer interceptor, currently hanging on the Old Trail Bridge, with its partners in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
In October 2014, sewer partners in Rossland and Warfield agreed to fund $4.2 million toward replacing the ageing utility line on the old bridge with an aerial (pipe) line across the river. Trail agreed to pay $2.6 million as a regional entity, plus $6.2 million for the walking platform above the sewer pipe.
The regional contract expires Aug. 31, said Martin, clarifying possible options of relocating the sewer line must soon be explored, as the matter is time sensitive.
The planning stage for a new structure rolled ahead in May 2013, after the engineering design was awarded to Buckland and Taylor, a specialized bridge engineering firm based in North Vancouver.
Those plans were updated earlier this year.
“The other part of this we really need to understand is how this project got so far off track,” he reiterated. “We placed heavy reliance on the engineering company that undertook this route on our behalf and it was on this basis that the decision was made to proceed and take the matter to referendum last year, and subsequently tender this year.”
Martin discussed the hiring of a third party to review the city’s internal processes as a way to identify what went wrong and why. Specifically, the independent party will examine Trail’s direct involvement in the design and budget development of the bridge project.
“I just want to assure city staff that this isn’t a witch hunt,” he said. “This council, and particularly myself as mayor, take full responsibility for what has occurred here. But I think it’s very incumbent upon us to make sure that we know what happened, and what we can do to avoid a repeat of this situation, especially with a project of this magnitude.”
Trail council agreed with the mayor and passed four recommendations. Those include: rejecting all five tenders; advising the regional district that the project wouldn’t be advancing; consulting legal counsel to recover engineering services and referendum; and launching an internal review of city staff.
Coun. Robert Cacchioni, Trail’s RDKB Sewer Committee representative, closed by expressing his disappointment with the outcome of the project he’s worked on with regional partners for seven years.
The next sewer committee meeting is slated for Sept. 8.
“This will be a discussion but at this time I can’t tell you exactly what will happen,” said Cacchioni. “Hopefully we will be looking at some of the options, but it’s really unfortunate because this puts us back to 2008 again.”