CANMORE – A series of capital projects – including the polarizing Bow River west pathway project – will have their budgets increased, while a pair of projects will be put off for another budget to help cover costs.
On Tuesday (May 16), Canmore council approved an increase in budget for three projects, while one will be reduced in scope and another two will be postponed for a future capital budget.
Town officials noted there were multiple reasons for the changes such as council priorities, asset management, new policies such as the updated Utility Master Plan, new grant funding and changing conditions in the construction sector for fluctuating prices in labour and material.
The Town’s manager of engineering, Andy Esarte, said there have been “significant impacts to the market and those are long-lasting and continuing.”
He added there have been “dramatic price increases,” which haven’t normalized following impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, since 2020-21, asphalt costs has increased by 72 per cent and concrete has seen a 90 per cent jump in prices.
Esarte highlighted internal changes have been made to better estimate future projects with a new method of factoring market conditions, reanalyzing how placeholders are approached in the budget and finishing a review of the Town’s reserve policy and offsite levy model.
Rather than going with the lowest bid for projects – which has led to challenges for projects such as safety and scheduling – Esarte noted the procurement process change has led to fewer submissions but better plans.
“It’s easy to throw in a low bid. It’s a lot harder to sit down and actually think about a plan and provide a schedule, outline your project team and meet all the requirements with a company with good project staff,” he said.
Esarte said the earlier a budget is approved by council the sooner the process can be implemented and the more options there are in tendering.
“If you tender earlier – either late in the year or early in the year – we get first in line and allows planning to get in the ground in March ahead of groundwater which is essential," he said.
A municipal budget is also a public document, which gives potential bidders an idea of what has been set aside for a project.
“You can have it transparent or you can have it cheap, but you can't have it both ways,” said Coun. Joanna McCallum.
The Bow River west pathway project, which was awarded to PCL Construction, includes an additional $1.4 million in provincial and federal funding, bringing the first phase increase to $3.6 million.
Work is expected to begin in June and completed in the fall, with landscaping continuing into 2024.
The project was originally budgeted for $1.5 million, but was increased to $2.2 million by an internal transfer approved by the CAO without needing a go-ahead from council, per the Town’s budget amendment policy.
The Bow Valley Trail and Teepee Town street and drainage rehabilitation for water and wastewater upgrades have also seen construction costs increase from $2.7 million to $3.9 million from federal and provincial funding as well as municipal reserves. The work is awarded to Bremner Engineering and Construction Construction and will begin in the fall and is expected to be finished in 2024, while landscaping will go on until 2025.
The move will see the planned 2nd Avenue work in 2024 deferred and finished within the next five years. The work is set to take place from William Street to Hospital Place.
The second phase of the Bow Valley Trail water upgrade will go from $1.75 million to $2.25 million, with the extra money coming from reserves. The wastewater upgrade, however, will be reduced to align with the Bow Valley Trail and Teepee Town street and drainage work.
The Teepee Town 2nd Avenue rehabilitation construction and third phase of the Bow Valley Trail wastewater upgrade will be postponed to a future capital plan.
According to the staff report, the street, drainage and utility projects in the capital plan are all deemed to be priority projects associated with asset rehabilitation and replacement, growth, and safety, and it is planned to maintain the current project list.
“Associated transportation projects are considered a priority in supporting growth by improving safety and facilitating all travel modes," it states.
The three project increases will receive $930,000 in federal funding, $1.38 million from the provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative and $ 790,000 from municipal reserves.
The two cancelled projects will reduce the capital budget by $3.55 million. Of that, $342,000 was through a debenture, $1.5 million in federal funding, $1 million through the MSI project and $708,000 from municipal reserves.
The CP Rail crossing along Railway Avenue will return to a future council meeting to approve yet-to-be announced funding requirements. The staff report noted temporary fixes were done in 2022 and 2023, but CP Rail has told the Town that a full replacement was needed that will see the street shut down for at least two days.
The CP Rail project is further hampered by municipalities being on the hook for maintenance and repair costs, but CP Rail decides when work needs to be done, leaving it more unpredictable when work is needed.
The Cougar Creek mitigation project will also need added funding with money set aside for the current work until the end of May, but potential grant funding may be received in June.
- $1.4 million in provincial and federal funding to increase phase one of the Bow River west pathway project from $2.2 million to $3.6 million.
- $1.2 million in provincial, federal and municipal reserves to have the Bow Valley Trail and Teepee Town street and drainage improvements from $2.7 million to $3.9 million.
- $500,000 in municipal reserves for phase two of the Bow Valley Trail water upgrade from $1.75 million to $2.25 million.
- The scope of Bow Valley Trail wastewater upgrade phase two is reduced to go along with the Bow Valley Trail and Teepee Town street and drainage improvements.
- Teepee Town 2nd Avenue rehabilitation construction of $2.95 million and phase three of the Bow Valley Trail wastewater upgrade of $600,000 is cancelled to a future capital budget plan.
CORRECTION: The original article stated the Bow Valley Trail and Teepee Town street and drainage rehabilitation for water and wastewater upgrades were tendered to PCL Construction, but it was actually Bremner Engineering and Construction Construction. The story has been updated and the Outlook apologizes for the error.