Friday, December 15, 2017

As costs rise on City's water infrastructure program; a look back at the history of the ambitious replacement program

As we noted on the blog on Thursday, December has brought us a look at some of the Capital Spending plans for the City of Prince Rupert for 2018.

And in among some of the background to the projects and spending that the city has set for 2018, was also a look at how some of the current projects have been moving ahead.

The update for City Council came at the December 4th Council session, and as part of her overview, Corinne Bomben, the City's Financial Officer outlined some of the background to the City's ongoing water supply infrastructure replacement program.

Her presentation in the public session, making for a kind of Cole's Notes version of the more expansive review found in the written Report to Council from the December 4th Agenda.

As part of the review, there was some previously undisclosed background information revealed, related to the upcoming completion of the first phase of the water project, which was approved in 2016.

That update made note of the progress towards the completion of the access road to Woodworth Dam and the lowering of the supply line below ground, in order to protect it from slides and wind thrown trees.

That project has been funded at 47% through the Build Canada Fund, with 34% provided by Prince Rupert Legacy Inc. The balance of the project is to be funded through debt.

In her written report to Council, Ms. Bomben noted that due to some unforeseen creek crossings and landslides that were experienced due to rainfall, the project is now over budget.

However, while flagged for council, no details were provided as part of the public report to indicate as to what extent the first phase of the project had exceeded its original budgetary blue print.

The second phase of that project, the replacement of the Woodworth Lake Dam is also providing for some challenges with the detailed design work having been concluded and the result of that work bringing in a budgeted cost that is 45 percent higher in cost than the initial conceptual design.

To address that issue, the CFO outlined how it is anticipated that the shortfall in funding for the project will be covered through debt resulting in Utility fee increases, unless other sources of revenue related to activities on Watson Island materialize.  

She also noted that as they head into the next year Council will be asked to consider a borrowing bylaw to fund the shortfall in both phase one and phase two by midyear of 2018.

The City also has plans for a the third phase of the water project, that will feature the replacement of the Submarine Line to the City. Towards that project, the city has applied for 100 per cent funding under the UBCM Strategic Priorities Fund Infrastructure Grant.

The notification of that award is expected to be made sometime in early 2018.

A fairly good overview of the situation comes if you compare the two reports of this month, both verbal and written.

First from the Agenda report from page 14 of the Regular Council Session of December 4th and then through the video archive below, where the Water supply theme is explored at the 8 minute mark.

The public Council session of the 4th might have offered up the opportunity for City Council members to get some more information for the public from Ms. Bomben's notes, as well as to explore in a bit more detail some of the cost advisories that she had observed.

However, at the end of the CFO's presentation to Council on the night, none of the members in attendance had weighed in to offer up any questions, or comments related to the report on capital spending and the elements related to the water supply issues.

To give a bit of background to the scope of the three part project, we've put together a form of timeline for review that traces the project from its first tentative steps of four years ago.

The first push towards the ambitious replacement plan began with an appearance at a provincial committee session held in Prince Rupert in the fall of 2013, as CFO Bomben outlined the dire state of the city's water system for a panel of provincial MLA's.

From that point, the previous council of former Mayor Jack Mussallem started the process of approval for the first phase of the project in early 2014, with the current city council collective led by Mayor Lee Brain picking up the torch following the Fall election of that year.

The approvals process carried on through 2015, with the water project becoming an element of the Mayor's roll out of the Hays 2.0 vision plan.

The first update on the water project came by way of the Mayor's video tour of the Shawatlan Lake area of June 2016, a journey into the remote site that the city posted to their website at the time.

Since then the updates on the progress of the project seem to have become fewer, that as other municipal issues took over some of Council's attention, with this month's Capital spending report the first significant background update in recent months.

The city may have had some plans to offer up more information on the water project at the recently cancelled Hays 2.0 blueprint update, which had been promoted as a wide ranging overview of the city's path forward.

Among some of the items that were to be discussed included infrastructure priorities and timelines, as well as a tutorial for the public called Prince Rupert Legacy 101, which was to offer up more background on the city's Legacy Corporation.

That public engagement session has been postponed to a date sometime in 2018, the date of that meeting still to be announced.

With costs rising and the prospect perhaps of potential tax increases to address those costs, the Water supply program may make for a good portion of the public's focus at the review as to how the Hays 2.0 plans are coming along.

For now, we offer up from our archives, a chance to take a look back at a good portion of the city's engagement on the water supply program from 2013 to today.


December 14 -- Infrastructure, public works and recreation spending among the highlights for Capital projects in 2018

November 15 -- Blue print deferred: Mayor's Hays 2.0 presentation postponed until the New Year

October 20 -- Mayor Brain outlines details related to upcoming Hays 2.0 vision update
October 13 -- Second wave of provincial funding  this week directs money to Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii
October 11 -- Province distributes infrastructure funding to 30 communities across BC

July 14 -- Legacy Inc. breakdown shows increase for salaries, reductions in other areas

March 21 -- City celebrates Federal/Provincial funding for water projects
March 14 -- More Federal funding to be made available for infrastructure use
March 9 -- Council gives nod to northeeastern BC firm for Shawatlan Raw Water Supply project
March 6 -- Contract for Shawatlan Raw Water project on Agenda for Council tonight

January 5 -- Woodworth Lake Water Transmission bid process now underway with late January deadline


December 14 -- Capital Projects for 2017 outlined for City Council

November 2 -- Federal infrastructure funding proves elusive for Prince Rupert

October 27 -- City's Water Grant proposal applications are in the pipeline
October 19 -- Mayor Brain takes issue with Northern View item on infrastructure funding
October 5 -- Hays 2.0 and Airport access the focus for city in Finance committee presentation

September 30 -- UBCM convention comes to an end as municipal leaders wrap up a week of networking

July 22 -- City seeks proposals for study on replacement of Woodworth Dam

June 6 -- Lights, Camera, Shawatlans ... City provides video tutorial on water supply rebuild

April 7 -- City updates major Project Notes through full page ad in local paper


November 27 -- Hays 2.0 gets splashy launch on City website

July 29 -- Prince Rupert's water supply project to replace 2.2 kilometres of 100 year old pipe
July 28 -- Infrastructure tour arrives on North Coast with funding for projects

February  12 -- Council moves forward with Grant Applications, placing Water supply project as highest priority
February 10 -- Infrastructure priorities and Grant opportunities to get a review at tonight's Council session


December 22 -- Council approves Capital Works Purchases and Projects, but not without some discussion on the Legacy Corporation
December 3 -- Mayor uses inaugural speech to preview approach ahead for council

May 12 -- Municipal infrastructure projects may produce delays according to FCM
May 4 -- City Engineering Department outlines its 'To Do' list for 2014


October 11 -- City makes its case on infrastructure concerns to Standing Finance Committee

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