About face! Kimberley City Council, after voting two weeks ago to defer work on the Mark Creek Flume rehab project until it could be brought in on budget, or additional grant money could be found, has changed course and voted to go ahead with the project this year.
The primary factor in the change of course, said Mayor Don McCormick, was that the general contractor Copcan, indicated that more savings could be found in the budget.
“Copcan came back and said they wanted to negotiate until we reached common ground,” McCormick said. “I am looking forward to this safety item being dealt with.”
It is a positive move forward, said Coun. Bev Middlebrook, who had been the only councillor not to vote for deferment of the project.
“It will be nice for the community to have it completed,” she said. “We’re not wasting the $400,000 already invested.”
Middlebrook also pointed out that completing the flume project was not going to get any cheaper, and the longer it was deferred the more it was likely to cost.
Councillor Albert Hoglund said he voted against going ahead.
“As Council we said we wouldn’t proceed if it was over budget,” he said. “It is going to be over budget. It could be $150,000, it could be $500,000. There are too many red flags I can’t accept. It won’t be over as much as phase 1 but it will still be over budget. I think we’re reneging on a promise.”
Coun. Kent Goodwin was quick to point out that Council, in fact, had made no such promise.
“I don’t believe council as a whole ever said we wouldn’t proceed if it was over budget. They Mayor made some pretty strong statements,” Goodwin said.
“We had the feeling we could put the grants on hold,” said Coun. Sandra Roberts. “That didn’t prove true. We were erasing those grants. It’s always a risk, but it isn’t getting any cheaper and it isn’t getting any safer. I think it was a prudent and thoughtful decision.”
Coun. Nigel Kitto said he believed the whole process was a lesson learned and perhaps heralded a cultural change at City Hall.
The primary reason for the deferral was money, said McCormick.
“It was way too high when you consider every project has risks. But Copcan came back and cut costs so we are within the tolerance. The risk points are the same this year as next year.
“There will be no shortage of armchair quarterbacks as we proceed and that’s cool. I’d like to assure all those who care, and I’m sure that’s all Kimberley residents, that the lessons learned will be applied and there will be scrutiny on the contractor.”
Asked where the savings were found, McCormick said that the difference between negotiation and choosing not to do a project can cause behaviour to change. Plus, he said, it was in the contractor’s best interest to do the project this summer.
McCormick also said that as far as returning the grant money was concerned, a definitive decision was never reached by the upper levels of government on what would happen if the grant monies were returned.