Whitehorse city council approved a $1.5 Million budget increase for the replacement of a lift station on Range Road. (File Photo)

Whitehorse city council approved a $1.5 Million budget increase for the replacement of a lift station on Range Road. (File Photo)

Whitehorse council approves increased budget for lift station replacement

Few bids received. Project comes in over budget.

At their May 25 meeting Whitehorse city council members revisited another proposed project that received few bids and came in over budget amid a red hot and expensive construction sector. Council heard that the replacement of a city lift station on Range Road would require an additional $1.5 million to proceed as planned.

Council heard that an engineering consulting firm looked into the project on the city’s behalf in 2020, determining that the best solution for the aging pumping facility was full replacement with a pre-manufactured lift station and a small building to house its electrical equipment. A preliminary cost assessment of $2.4 million was identified; then in February of this year, before the work was tendered, council approved a $500,000 increase to the budget.

Presenting on behalf of the city’s corporate services committee, Coun. Michelle Friesen said her committee heard from city administration that the increase in project costs was the result of higher costs of material and labour as well as the fact that few bids were received for the work. She said that administration noted they reached out to some companies about why they did not bid the job. The most common response was that the companies’ schedules were simply full.

Friesen said the committee looked into the option of waiting to proceed with the replacement and sought information about maintenance costs and potential risks of keeping the lift station open. She moved that the city should make up the $1.5-million shortfall from its capital reserves until a new agreement to have it funded through the Canada Community Building Fund could be reached.

Coun. Dan Boyd asked to hear more about the risks associated with keeping the station running for longer. City director of operations Tracy Allen was on hand to answer, stating that at the moment the station can only run one pump at a time, limiting its capacity. She added there is significant corrosion in some of its piping and on the ladder that descends into the wet well leading to safety concerns. The mechanical and electrical components of the station also require upgrades.

“The facility right now services, essentially, a small area along the Range Road. And so it’s difficult to quantify what might fail. And when and the resulting solution, there are potentials that we could do in terms of band aid fixes, most certainly. But this is a facility that ultimately is going to need to be replaced,” Allen said.

Allen added the additional incremental costs of operating and maintaining the aging lift station are between $10,000 and $25,000 per year and this money could be saved when the station was replaced.

Boyd asked if it would be possible to upgrade just the electrical system in the facility, solving the power issues that stop it from running both pumps at once. Allen replied that that solution was investigated in 2020, but it was determined that it would be better to proceed with a new facility to get a longer lifespan.

The discussion led Coun. Ted Laking to call for a reexamination of how the city puts out contracts, if it is putting qualified local operations out of the running due to scheduling conflicts and also take a look at the process being used for estimates.

“Because of the current processes now we’re going to have our back against the wall where we have a project that we need to go forward with, but we have to go forward with in the most expensive way possible, which is concerning,” he said.

Mayor Laura Cabott acknowledged the increase in the project costs is significant for Whitehorse and that it is not the only one to come in over budget in recent months.

“We’re going to see more and more of these come to council and I think we need to be very strategic on which ones we are going to bite the bullet and pay the extra,” Cabott said.

She said that when worker safety is an issue as it is with the replacement of the lift station it has to be done.

The motion to approve the additional project cost passed unanimously.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com