The new Range Road lift station could cost the City of Whitehorse an extra $1.5 million if city council approves the budget change.
At Whitehorse city council’s May 16 meeting, acting engineering manager Michael Abbott brought forward a recommendation council approve the budget change for the additional costs.
As Abbott explained, the city received only one bid on the project after it went to tender in March. Officials reached out to local firms with many explaining they hadn’t bid because they already have a number of work projects underway and aren’t in a position to take on more.
While efforts were made to look at ways to cut back on the costs, given the already simple design of the facility, no feasible options were found.
“The bid prices were reviewed in detail and all the items of work were within a reasonable deviation to the estimated prices at pre-tender, except for the line item that would include costs for mobilization and demobilization,” Abbott said. “This is a result of the contractor mobilizing crews and some equipment from Yellowknife.
“Considering the criticality of this sanitary infrastructure and the uncertainty with market conditions in 2023 and beyond, administration recommends proceeding with this project in 2022 and to not delay.”
As Abbott explained, the 1960s-era lift station as well as the force main along Range Road are at the end of their life cycles.
“City crews have identified frequent operational problems with this lift station including security concerns,” he said. “A proactive replacement of the lift station at this time will be more cost effective than further maintenance and upgrades.”
The city began moving forward with a full replacement of the lift station in 2020 after an assessment determined the replacement would be needed. It was estimated at that time to cost approximately $2.4 million.
Detailed design of the facility followed in 2021, with the cost estimate rising another $500,000 before it was put out to tender. Council approved that funding on Feb. 14.
It’s anticipated Whitehorse’s portion of the Canada community building fund (formerly gas tax) would cover the additional $1.5 million to be approved by council. The city would use reserves until the federal funding is available.
The situation had council members questioning what it could mean for future projects that were planned to be funded by the federal community building fund as well as whether waiting for a future year to do the project could impact costs.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu asked about any gas tax funding projects that may not go forward due to the additional costs, with Abbott noting initiatives planned for 2022 and 2023 are expected to go ahead, but there are some considerations being made for more long-term plans three to five years down the road that could be impacted.
Coun. Dan Boyd was vocal about his concerns over the cost, wondering whether it might be beneficial to wait a couple of years to replace the lift station in the hopes of finding a local contractor. He also asked for more details on what risks the city may face if it does hold off on the plans. Meanwhile, Mayor Laura Cabott wondered about the ongoing maintenance costs.
City administration indicated they would get back to council with answers over the coming week. Interim city manager Jeff O’Farrell added, however, that while the city can assess the ongoing maintenance costs of the facility, there’s no way of forecasting emergency repairs that may come up if the lift station fails.
Council is expected to vote on the budget change May 24.
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