Council unhappy with lack of progress in project

Staff shortage contributed to delay in water main replacement project

Mission council blasted its engineering department Monday night after receiving a report to award five asbestos cement (AC) water main replacement projects to the lowest bidder.

Councillors weren’t offended by the $349,865 cost, but rather the length of time it has taken staff to bring the project to the tendering phase.

Council approved the water main project in March, and it should have been finished by the end of this year, said Mayor Ted Adlem. “I have a problem with the timing … we’re essentially putting the project behind because we’re not putting [the tender] out in a reasonable time. I’m very annoyed.”

The green light was given in March 2013 to replace 10 km of the AC water mains showing structural degradation of 45 per cent or higher in the next nine years. The new pipes, expected to last 75 years, are made of either ductile iron or polyvinyl chloride.

Ten projects were identified for this year. To determine the most efficient and cost-effective method to carry out the work, district staff took on half the projects and contracted out the other five.

Municipal staff began working on the projects in October and estimate the completion date will be early February 2014.

The selected contractor is expected to begin the job later this month and finish by May 2014.

Hirod Gill, Mission’s manager of engineering services, explained the project fell behind because of a lack of in-house expertise in the area and staff shortage.

Adlem wasn’t the only council member unhappy with the lack of progress. Couns. Larry Nundal, Tony Luck, and Dave Hensman also expressed their concerns.

Coun. Jenny Stevens was “horrified” at the way a member of district staff was being blasted in public and suggested this kind of discussion take place in the mayor’s office next time.

Mission’s chief administrative officer (CAO), Ken Bjorgaard, noted staff have also been trying to coordinate roads that need to be resurfaced at the same time.

There is a shortage of skilled workers who can fill technical positions in Mission, said Bjorgaard. “We never hurry into hiring, but there are resources staff can look into.”

He suggested staff come back with a report on how to accomplish the upcoming work.

We want to see progress, explained Hensman, adding staff need to communicate with the CAO to clear any blockages in the way.