Costs climb for Kitchener’s public works yard
By Terry Pender, Record staff
KITCHENER—City councillors are remaining steadfast in their support for a new public works yard, even as the costs have increased by about 37 per cent.
The total costs are now estimated at $66.2 million for the massive complex that will be located on Goodrich Drive, up from the original price of about $48.2 million, the city’s finance committee was told Monday.
While city councillors voted to proceed with revisions to the project Coun. John Gazzola was the lone opponent.
“I haven’t been too favourable all the way along with this and the further it goes along the bigger the concerns I seem to see cropping up,” Gazzola said.
“This started out a number of years ago as a $20 million project and we are now up to $65 million or $66 million and we still haven’t really let go any of the major tenders so who knows where this is going to end,” Gazzola said.
The base budget remains about the same at $48.2 million. The cost of a solar roof on the main building will cost $4 million. Another $14 million in improvements will make the complex more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
“I am really concerned about it especially in the trying times we are going through with the rest of our economy and what we are facing with future tax increases here,” Gazzola said.
Workers, equipment, vehicles and machinery now scattered around the city at five different sites will all be located in the 300,000-square-foot building on Goodrich Drive. The facility should be open by late 2010 or early 2011 and city staff says it will be more efficient and less costly to operate.
The project’s supporters on council underscore the fact that upper levels of government are paying the bulk of the additional costs and the base budget that is funded from city hall coffers is the same.
Coun. Kelly Galloway said the city will pay $48.2 million for the building plus $4 million for the solar roof, which she called a stand alone project. The $14 million in energy and environmental improvements is shared equally among the city, province and federal governments.
Mayor Carl Zehr said the $14 million in energy and environmental enhancements to the main building will generate savings that will pay for the improvements during the first five to seven years of its operation.
Even with the additional costs the Goodrich site is still less expensive than some of the multi-site alternatives studied earlier, Zehr said.
More importantly, the base budget of $48.2 million, that will be funded entirely with local dollars, has not increased, Zehr said.
“And so I can support this,” Zehr said.
Coun. Berry Vrbanovic, who chairs the finance committee, said he is pleased city staff took additional time to plan the large project.
“I would rather be in a situation where more time is taken up front, do the detail work, then we know where we are in terms of making these decisions,” Vrbanovic said.
A large snow dump was supposed to be located there at a cost of $500,000. But provincial laws that protect groundwater supplies increased the cost of that snow dump to more than $2 million. So the city is now looking for another place for a new snow dump.
It also means the city has too much land on its hands at the Goodrich site and will sell off some in the future.
As well, the city originally planned to sell the Battler Yards once the new facility was open on Goodrich Drive. The revenues from that land sale would be used to pay down the cost of the Goodrich site. But now the city wants to retain the Battler site to continue the recycling of waste concrete and asphalt from city road projects at that location.
“We felt that the existing site is currently accepted by the neighbourhood and is a much better site in the long term to do this kind of operation,” Pauline Houston, the city’s director of community services, said.
“This is the right thing to do environmentally and financially,” Vrbanovic said.
The detailed design of the central maintenance complex should be done by December and construction will occur in the following months.
In August 2007 a company called South Kitchener Holdings bought about 106 acres of land where the former B.F. Goodrich plant was located for $24.2 million, or about $228,000 per acre.
About three months later the City of Kitchener bought about 45 acres of that land for $22.4 million, or about $497,000 per acre.
So far the city has refused to make public the agreement of purchase and sale for the transaction. The Waterloo Region Record asked for the documentation using the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. Currently, the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner is considering the request.