The biggest municipal project in the history of Canmore received its final approval this week.
Canmore council voted unanimously on Tuesday (March 15) to award the contract for construction of the Multiplex to Calgary-based Graham Construction.
Graham had the lowest tender bid for the project at $31.4 million and deputy chief administrative officer Lisa de Soto made the recommendation after the tender packages from five pre-qualified bidders were reviewed last week.
“Based on the quality of the bids we received, we are pleased to recommend Graham Construction,” she said.
The decision was met with applause in the council chambers and Mayor Ron Casey reflected on the three-year process to make the project a reality.
At the time, the province had announced unprecedented funding for municipalities – the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.
“Sustainability from a community point of view was very much the intent of those grant funds,” Casey said. “To do nothing to keep families staying in the community and do nothing to enhance and grow the community is unacceptable.”
Councillor John Borrowman remained concerned the project may not be the best use of MSI grant funding, but supported the motion.
“I am not convinced the Multiplex is the best project we could have come up with to meet our facility needs,” he said. “I think we could have done a better job fixing or enhancing other facilities for less money… however, at this point in time it would be silly not to support the motion.”
Coun. Gordie Miskow expressed appreciation for the questions raised by his fellow councillor through the process.
“It is very important to understand for every person who wants this there are those people who pay taxes that are concerned,” Miskow said.
Coun. Joanna McCallum commented that the project will attract families, create jobs and promote tourism – all of which are good for the community.
With five bids, de Soto said, administration was pleased with the pricing received as all but one were within seven per cent of each other.
“One item that did come up we would like council to consider was a possible cost saving measure to reduce the level of bonding,” she said.
Administration recommended removing the requirement for performance, labour and materials payment bonds.
“At this scale and with a general contractor with history and reputation, a portion of the bonding can be waived,” de Soto said. “By waiving that there is a possible savings of $150,000, which is not large considering a budget of $39 million, but it is something council may want to consider.”
She said it is something the private sector would do, but the public sector is more risk aversive, especially when it comes to public funds.
The risk of proceeding without the bonding is if the general contractor defaulted, which de Soto said is “highly unlikely”.
Council, however, voted against the recommendation.
“I am concerned what this will do is transfer risk from the general contractor to the Town and I am not sure it is appropriate,” said Coun. Hans Helder.
To date, $2.3 million has been spent on the Multiplex design. In addition to the construction price of $31.4 million, $1.6 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment and a contingency amount of $2.2 million, the total price tag is $39 million.
Helder expressed concern about cost overruns during construction as a result of changes to the project.
“That is probably one of the bigger risks I as a councillor would be concerned about,” Helder said. “I would look at the contingency amount not as a pot of money to be spent, but a pot of money not to be spent.”
Administration said technical changes would be handled at the project manager level, but changes in scope, form and function would come to the project steering committee.
One aspect that would affect the overall budget, said de Soto, is the extent to which soil remediation will be required on the site.
The site used to house the CPR roundhouse and there is contamination from hydrocarbons. An environmental assessment has been completed and a soil mitigation plan accepted by Alberta Environment.
There are related capital items, said de Soto, which will include $150,000 for the decommissioning of the current pool, $250,000 for a pedestrian crossing along Railway Avenue and $80,000 to complete a trail adjacent to the CPR right of way.
A final motion by Casey, which was passed, directed that updates of the project be included in reports to council.
at the monthly committee of the whole meeting.