Premier downplays true cost of F.H. Collins rebuild

Premier Darrell Pasloski is telling Yukoners that his government has saved $17 million by overhauling the F.H. Collins school reconstruction project.

Premier Darrell Pasloski is telling Yukoners that his government has saved $17 million by overhauling the F.H. Collins school reconstruction project.

In fact, it spent several years and at least $5 million designing a school that would never be built. Those plans were scrapped when costs spiralled out of control. New designs cribbed from Alberta will see a smaller school for about the same total project budget.

“Rightsizing this project has resulted in a savings to the taxpayer of approximately $17 million compared to the original bid,” Pasloski told a crowd at a Yukon Chamber of Commerce lunch last week. “We are getting value for your tax dollars and can now put that $17 million to good use for many other necessary projects and services.”

The premier used similar words to talk about the project during his budget speech in the legislature Tuesday.

The $17 million that Pasloski references relates to the difference between the lowest bid on the construction contract for the old design and the winning bid for the construction contract on the new design.

But it is a poor reflection of the actual cost of the school reconstruction project.

Around election time in 2011 the government promised it would open a school by August 2013 for a total budget of $52.5 million. That price tag was later upped to $56 million as costs rose.

According to the new Yukon Party budget released Tuesday, the overall budget for the F.H. Collins reconstruction is now $51 million. For that, Yukoners will get a school that is 18 per cent smaller than the one originally planned.

None of those figures account for what has and will be spent in terms of salaries for government employees working on the project. Those costs have surely risen as the projected opening date of the school has been pushed back by two years. The school is now expected to open in fall of 2015.

The premier’s claim that he is saving money on the project is “another attempt to mislead the public about the spending at F.H. Collins,” said Liberal Leader Sandy Silver.

“We know that the new school will be significantly smaller than the current F.H. Collins, so of course it should cost less.”

Because the government planned a school it could not afford to build, now most of the construction money will leave the territory, said Silver.

“Most of the money will be going outside the Yukon because the Yukon Party set up the bidding process so that no Yukon company could win.”

The tender required that the company have experience building schools with a similar design.

The $31 million construction contract went to Clark Builders, based in Alberta.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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