The district is scrambling to find answers following a council report delivered last Monday revealing an engineering project is nearly $330,000 over budget, but the bulk of those additional costs were not brought to the attention of either administration or council.
A budget of $596,454 was approved for the Gaudin Creek diversion project Aug. 8, but a series of cost overruns led to change orders that has inflated the revised budget to $942,803.
Those change orders were verbally approved by staff without apprising administration or council, which was done to expedite the project before an Oct. 31 grant deadline for the source of the funds, according to the report.
Deputy chief administrative officer Paul Gipps said administration was taken by surprise, leading to an internal review of the “checks and balances” in government.
“Bottom line, I’m not going to say somebody screwed up. If that’s the case, we’ll get to that, but at this point it’s, what have we learned from this, and what have we put in place to ensure that we don’t end up with the same circumstance again,” said Gipps.
The change orders were made after culvert excavations in the first week of October showed significant problems that will need to be addressed: $52,707 in reinforced concrete footings; $82,112 in lowering the Abbotsford-Mission watermain after it was found in a different place than drawings indicated; $32,560 in backfilling under footings due to poor soil conditions; $39,683 in other items; $13,533 in overtime labour to catch up; and $23,854 in additional security and overhead resulting from delays.
“From a council government’s point of view, I was not happy that this happened without letting the chief administrative officer [Glen Robertson] know,” said Mayor James Atebe, adding it’s more important that policy and procedure wasn’t followed than the fact there are cost overruns.
Council candidate Larry Nundal, who worked for the district as a building inspector for 20 years, said in a telephone interview he thinks the person responsible should either resign or be fired, echoing comments he made to council last Monday.
“If I worked there, I probably would have resigned if I did something that stupid,” he said.
Because the $4.8 million Cedar Street widening project was completed $826,000 under budget, the district can use $229,646 that was not allocated in the original contract to soften the blow.
Council approved the additional $136,803 to complete the project, which will come from reserve funds.