Friday, April 28, 2023

No Taj Mahal, nor a swamp: Council members push back on perceptions of two projects underway

Of the range of capital spending ahead, two items seemed to draw the most attention for some in the public when it came to conversation on the Budget this year, with the planned move to the McCarthy GM building and plans for a wastewater pilot project off of Omenica capturing the most attention.

Both projects have been making forward momentum for months and that progress was of note for one of the three residents who participated in the public comment opportunities at City Council this month.

Prince Rupert resident Terry Sawka put both projects in the spotlight when he spoke on April 11th and again on the 24th, the latter of the two appearances providing for some headline catching  opinion, if local headline makers had been paying attention to the budget conversations this month. 

With Sawka referencing the McCarthy Plans as a Taj Mahal and the wastewater initiative as a swamp.

He noted of the ongoing progress towards the city's interests in the McCarthy GM property and if it really was a necessary move.

"It's my understanding that the City is currently paying 25,000 dollars a month to lease that property ... there's a further two million dollar cost to the taxpayers of Prince Rupert to renovate a fairly new building ... Two million dollars is a lot of money to create another Taj Mahal in Prince Rupert and I just wonder whether at this time and date something like that is a necessity In Prince Rupert. 

He also had concerns over the city's pilot project for wastewater facility off of Omenica.

"The last item I have is the proposed creation of a swamp. 

A pilot project in the middle of our Island and I'm sure twenty five, thirty,  forty years down the road somebody is going to stand up and say why did we do that?

It's not a proven factor, it's going to channel all the water and whatever else down to that area there, there's been no environmental studies done, no approval by the  Government, Provincial or Federal but we're already included in the budget a fair amount of money to go ahead with the project"

The commentary seemed to ensure that City Council members would come to the defence for both, with the conversation form the council side that of strong support for both initiatives.

On the McCarthy project the comments included:

Councillor Nick Adey

"The subject of the McCarthy Public Works project is ... Terry you're not the only one that has asked the question I'll just put it that way. 

But I do remember with the previous council when the idea was brought to us and although the discussion was fulsome, I think the central point was the question job of whether this was the most cost effective and time effective way to do what ... there was a consensus needed to be done. 

And that was to get the workforce out of unacceptably decrepit facility that they are in now. 

And the answer at the time that came back was Yeah this is not only gonna get us to the goal fastest it's also going to be the most cost effective way to do it. 

So I guess I'm articulating the question again to see if the answer remains the same"

That observation on which was confirmed by Operations Director Richard Pucci.

Also speaking to the McCarthy Project was Councillor Wade Niesh

"The comments about McCarthy GM, you know the comment last week about, we can put up a steel building and make it work. 

Well McCarthy GM is a steel building it's a building that you know is not really any frills, it's got some nice offices in the front that they did some work on a few years back.  

You know the New Longshore Hall I believe is somewhere in the neighbourhood  of nine million dollars to build, so the cost of building these days is a lot more than it was ten, or five years ago.

So, you know there's been comments ... well why didn't you leave that for a dealership, well that place sat empty for how many years and a dealership didn't come. 

So it's not like we are taking it from the private industry that built a car dealership, there was nobody knocking on the door saying lets build a car dealership.

So in my eyes, and in the eyes of the Council that approved it was an opportunity to get  a building that suited our needs to fulfill what we needed and not to spend the money on a new building and like I said Longshore hall would be a good example at nine million dollars "

Councillor Barry Cunningham also had some observations on the McCarthy plans.

"McCarthy, we'll be moving in there soon we'll have a nice facility and I think if we were to replace that facility up at Wantage Road we're looking at ten, twelve million dollars if we're lucky. 

You know not the original cost that was done years ago.

I just think that in the end we're getting a pretty good deal there yeah it's a little slow but every type of construction is slow right now, no one can find people to work,  you know everyone's just tapped out and I think our staff is pretty diligent watching the pennies and all that"

On the theme of the Omenica wastewater pilot it too generated commentary in support.

Councillor Adey observed of the past studies  and background research that went into the proposal and the work put in by staff towards the planning for the pilot project.

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven observed of his time as part of the original proposal.

"I wanted to take some time to speak to a few of the items, one of which  I can think of was the Swamp, that was referenced.  For being part of the original team that kind of went to seek that opportunity out with Director Pucci and at the time Dr. Long.

Seeing those pieces and the savings potential for that kind of speaks for itself. 

Optimistically we'd be looking at 200 million in savings but a hundred plus kind of given the terrain and how much of that really can take up.  Instead of investing 300 million dollars into a sewage treatment plant that is not a sexy investment and stinks up the next five blocks.

Looking at these alternative measures and for context sake when we say wetlands, these are not developable properties. For us to drop thirty million dollars in gravel to bring it up to grade  just to have it sink anyways, doesn't make a whole  lot of sense.

To utilize what its already naturally doing and to emphasize that process and adding the granulated  media and some of the geo substrate that we can add to it to make it more efficient I think there's plenty of opportunity there"

Council offered Operations Director Pucci some time to review his previous notes on both projects, those can be found from the video archive. 

The Omenica project at the  one hour, twenty six minute mark

The McCarthy portion starts at the one hour thirty three  minute mark

In the end, the still unknown nature of the Omenica test pilot project does suggest  Mr. Sawka's words of caution may yet make for a discussion topic.  

But that won't be known, until the initiative is  proven or disproven and the results come in from the project upon its completion. 

Something that Council seems inclined to roll the dice on with perhaps a future Council left to provide for the answers if required .

You can compare Council's notes of Monday with their past observations for both projects available for review from our Major Projects Archive page.

More Notes on Monday's council session can be explored here.


  1. When Pucci was first pitching this to council I think I remember his rough estimate was $500,000.00 but might go over bit.
    If I am correct how is four times the estimate acceptable.
    Someone has to give up the attaboy.

    1. You're a tad low, the original estimate was noted as 750,000 dollars, but you are correct in noting of the increased cost, not to mention the shift towards the purchase ...


    2. I don’t find comfort in being corrected. It looks like the 2 million is correct as know one corrected Mr. Saskatoon.
      So Pucci,s estimate was only over by around 2 3/4 times.
      He also talked of giving back money as from the 750.

      Council when they ok projects do it on his figures. How can we continue to ok projects and not question recommendations if the estimates are so out of whack!