School construction bids way off mark

Construction of a new F.H. Collins high school may cost at least $9 million more than the government budgeted for, according to the public tender bids released on Tuesday.

Construction of a new F.H. Collins high school may cost at least $9 million more than the government budgeted for, according to the public tender bids released on Tuesday.

The Department of Highways and Public Works had put the tenders out with a budget of $38.6 million. That is meant to cover the actual construction of the new building, and is part of the project’s total budget of $56 million.

The lowest bid received – submitted by Richmond, B.C.‘s EllisDon Corp. – is nearly $48 million.

The highest bidder was Clark Builders from Yellowknife, which pitched $60 million.

Delta, B.C.‘s Graham Construction and Engineering bid $50 million.

Kendra Black, a spokesperson for the department, said that the government’s budget was developed by two hired professional estimators.

“In terms of the budget, the architectural consultant hired a professional estimator and we also hired a professional estimator to develop the costs, and those two estimates were very close. We feel comfortable with the estimate that was created. There may be other market factors that the bidder may take into account, and we really can’t comment on those,” Black said.

All three bids met the tender requirements. The department now has up to 60 days to review the lowest bid. Decisions on how to be proceed will happen after the review is complete, said Black.

Cabinet spokesman Matthew Grant said that the ministers responsible – Education Minister Scott Kent and Public Works Minister Elaine Taylor – won’t comment publicly on the bids until Public Works has finished its review.

The high bids don’t sit well with the official opposition.

“It’s more confusion, ” said NDP education critic Jim Tredger on Thursday.

“We still don’t know who’s building it, when they’re building it or how much it’s going to cost after 12 years of planning,” Tredger said.

“It’s the Thursday before spring break, and they’re scheduled to start construction on the spring break. Teachers and students haven’t been informed. Are they going to have a gym on Monday? That’s pretty lame,” he said.

Plans to rebuild the school have dragged on for years and keep getting more expensive every time there is a new stumbling block, said Tredger.

“This has been going on quite a while. The kids and teachers have to plan, but how are we going to mitigate the confusion? That’s 25 per cent more than they expected. That’s a huge amount. How did we get that far off base?” he asked.

The government has said it will hire a professional project manager to oversee the construction of the new school. Tredger said that manager should have been in place even before the contracts were tendered.

The Liberals’ Sandy Silver said he wonders why an outside project manager is even necessary, and that the government should have the required expertise in house.

Both Silver and Tredger also compared concerns with the F.H. Collins project to the recent auditor general’s report on the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospital projects, saying it is another example of the Yukon government’s mismanagement of major infrastructure projects.

“The government has to do a better job on cost estimates. Here we are, after the auditor general’s report, and it’s the same idea. Where is the planning in this? If you did do your due diligence in this, you’d think that those numbers would be much closer,” said Silver.

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