Two weeks after the latest iteration of the F.H. Collins school replacement project was put out to tender, the government has issued a 119-page addendum and pushed back the closing date by a month.
Now, the public tender period closes Jan. 10, 2014 and the revision package includes changes to some interior space layout.
According to Public Works spokeswoman Kendra Black, the changes serve two purposes. First, the closing date was extended after some of the bidding contractors requested more time.
“At the request of local contractors, the closing date for the F.H. Collins replacement project was changed from Dec. 12 to Jan. 10,” Black said.
“The change in the tender date will not impact on the overall project timeline. It’s not uncommon for contractors to request an extension on closing dates for construction tenders, depending on how big the project is,” she said.
The government still intends to award the project this winter, with construction slated to begin as soon as the ground thaws this spring, Black said.
The other reason for the revisions was to make some of the interior spaces more flexible.
“Several new learning spaces of different sizes have been incorporated into the design to increase flexibility of how the spaces can be used. The changes are all to interior layout. They are not significant, and they’re not expected to impact overall project costs or time lines,” she said.
But these kinds of late-in-the-game changes often do cause project costs to drift upwards, according to several local contracting experts, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared hurting their chances of winning future government contracts.
Interim Liberal Leader Sandy Silver said changes like this are signs that the government doesn’t know how to handle major infrastructure projects.
“Any time that you put out a tender and then issue 119 pages of changes just a few weeks later, that can’t be good news,” Silver said.
“It signals to contractors that government doesn’t know what its doing. Maybe that will result in a higher bid, I don’t know. But it’s never good optics when the person who holds the money shows this level of mismanagement,” he said.
In the legislature on Tuesday, both Silver and the NDP’s education critic, Jim Tredger, questioned the government’s handling of the project, and its ability to adequately adapt an Alberta-designed school for Yukon students’ needs.
“The government has paid almost $1 million for a new design,” Tredger said.
“The tender for construction is out. It is already being altered, yet the promised meaningful engagement of parents, the public and the staff is not happening. If it is, it’s happening after the fact,” he said.
Education Minister Elaine Taylor said the updates to the design were made to include the work of the new school building advisory committee.
“The most important features from the building advisory committee consultations have been adapted and have been actually articulated within the design.
“Examples of this include flexible learning spaces, a school-wide wireless network, fitness studio, improved First Nation program areas, an industrial kitchen, and a food service area,” she said.
The original design for the new F.H. Collins was nixed last year by Premier Darrell Pasloski after he said it came in $10 million over budget. Professional estimates, meanwhile, said the project would cost $5.1 million more than the government had planned, once late additions like geothermal heat were included.
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