The City of Port Alberni is in the home stretch for its wastewater treatment plant. All it needs to cross the finish line is another $10 million.
Councillors agreed on Monday to take $4.3 million from the city’s sewer infrastructure reserve fund and borrow another $5.68 million to make up the difference.
The city started in 2018 to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to meet new federal and provincial treatment standards. The project is about 70 percent complete, city CAO Tim Pley said. The total project cost has risen to $37.9 million, which is $6.3 million more than estimated in 2018.
The request for extra funding won’t affect this year’s tax rate, Pley explained, but it will likely affect sewer user fees.
“It is common with construction projects, particularly ones of this scale, that estimated costs vary from actual costs,” said Wilf Taekema, city director of engineering and public works.
“In this instance, there are several factors to account for. The market fluctuates day to day, year to year and with the long construction timeline, tender prices (actual costs) came in higher than the original estimates which were based on the market at that time,” he said.
While Taekema explained why some costs have increased since 2018, others have inflated by large amounts. The cost for upgrading effluent pumping in the new lagoon, for example, is 178 percent higher than estimated in 2018. The pump platform contract was originally $1.3 million, but the actual cost has come in at $3.29 million.
Decommissioning the current lagoon and upgrading the pump station totals approximately $1.4 million so far, which is 103 percent higher than estimated. Engineering costs are also 87 percent higher than estimated in 2018: $3.6 million compared to $1.9 million originally.
“Engineering costs have gone up in part because regulatory bodies are scrutinizing the project and asking for more information and proof,” Pley said.
He stressed that the request for funding the remainder of the project is not unexpected, even if some of the costs have gone up in the past two years.
Pley did not know how sewer user fees would be affected once this request passed. “We are working with a consultant to determine the effect,” he said.