A new pile of compost, left, at the Whitehorse landfill waits to be added to the aerated static windrows — the darker piles in the background — on July 4, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse considers expanding the budget for compost expansion

Cost now up to $4.4 million

As the city’s compost pile grows, so too is the cost of an expanded facility, Whitehorse city council learned at its July 2 meeting.

That’s where Geoff Quinsey, the city’s manager of water and waste services, brought forward the recommendation that the $2.73 million budget be increased by another $2.07 million and the contract for construction of the expanded facility go to Castle Rock Enterprises.

As Quinsey explained, the city’s continuing expansion of its compost collection program which has been made mandatory for the food service sector and multi-family homes, along with those already on the city’s waste collection service, makes the upgrades to the compost facility necessary.

In 2019, a total of 48 commercial compost collection customers have already been added to another 18 in the downtown joining the system in July. That will complete the expansion of the food service sector five months ahead of schedule.

The city will then begin phasing in multi-family sites with all those customers expected to be online in 2020.

“An expansion and upgrade to the compost facility was identified as required to accommodate the additional 1,000 tonnes per year expected from the expanded program,” Quinsey stated in his report to council.

He went on to note the change to the original $2.73 million estimate for the expansion came after geotechnical drilling and an assessment was done in the summer of 2018. It determined there would be a lot more excavation work and granular material needed than originally planned. An operational assessment followed determining the aerated concert pad for the compost is best situated where the current processing site is. That means taking a phased approach to it “and significantly increasing the complexity of the construction project.”

Along with the aerated concrete pad are plans for two new stockpile areas and an expanded receiving area.

“In light of the required changes, an updated cost estimate was sought from the engineering consultant that completed the geotechnical assessment, and the new estimated project cost increased significantly to $4.8 million, reflecting consulting, construction, and a contingency amount,” Quinsey continued.

Gas tax funding in the amount of $400,000 has been set aside for the work with officials learning in June that the city was successful in securing $4.4 million from the federal government — through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program — for the project.

The situation had Coun. Dan Boyd questioning why the budget change hadn’t come to council sooner. Officials knew in November that the costs would be higher than originally estimated.

Quinsey responded it was made clear in the tender the construction project was contingent on external funding coming through. Had the funding not been approved, the project wouldn’t have come forward and thus there was no reason to support a budget amendment prior to that.

Boyd stood by his assertion that council should have been informed and amended the budget earlier, while also asking Quinsey if there’s a possibility of looking at using a newer type of cement that’s more carbon sensitive.

The cement is reported to cost about the same amount as standard cement, though it has a longer curing time, Boyd said.

Quinsey emphasized there is likely time to look into it. The compost facility work is set to be split into two phases with anticipated completion dates of Nov. 30 for Phase 1 and July 31, 2020 for Phase 2.

Mayor Dan Curtis, meanwhile, said the city has been working towards increasing the amount of compost coming into the facility, and thus being kept out of general landfill waste, for years.

“I feel like we won the lottery,” he said. “This is a home run.”

Castle Rock had the lowest of three bids on the construction, coming in at $2.99 million. The remaining $1.81 million in the budget is for the other project costs such as the design and consulting work that’s been done.

Council will vote on the contract and budget change July 8.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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