While the regional organics facility is closer to getting underway, the price tag is going up.
As with other local governments, the Comox Strathcona Waste Management board, composed of Comox Valley and Strathcona elected regional and municipal representatives, is finding the cost of major construction increasing of late.
At the Sept. 9 board, staff presented them with an update of the projected cost, asking for an amendment to the budget of $2,180,000. This will bring the total cost to $17,300,000.
“Since last fall, we’ve completed preliminary design,” said Cole Makinson, CSWM manager of capital projects.
They have also lined permitting for both the Campbell River composting facility and a transfer station with the respective local governments.
Makinson explained that during COVID, price increases for construction have increased. The hope is to open for next fall as planned. A staff report notes that the bids for work on the compost facility and the transfer station that CSWM received during tendering came in higher than the approved budget.
In order to divert more materials from landfill space, the plan for CSWM has been to close the Campbell River Waste Management site’s landfill and ship the refuse to the Comox Valley site in Cumberland. There they will backfill the trucks with organics that will be sent to the new organics composting facility in Campbell River.
While many board members were disappointed by the cost increase, the majority supported the motion to amend the budget and shift funding from the Comox site’s Cell 2 project from capital works reserve to debt.
The sentiment was not unanimous. Brenda Leigh, who represents Area D on the Strathcona Regional District board, has long opposed the project, saying it was wasting money and adding to fossil fuel emissions by trucking around organic material.
“I’m opposed to spending more money on this project,” she said. “I never did support it.”
She suggested delaying or even shelving the project, at least to determine whether the cost of construction will come down. However, others disagreed.
“The pause will only drive the costs further up,” said Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its directors.
Another response was that they need to consider the trucks used to move the material might be powered by energy sources other than fossil fuels in the years ahead.
Makinson also pointed out CSWM risked losing its grant funding for the project if they do not award a tender for the project.
Leigh also asked why there was no estimate of tipping costs in the project budget, but staff responded tipping fees are part of operating costs and not part of a capital project budget.
In the end, the board passed the motion to increase the budget and shift the funding, with only Leigh and SRD colleagues Gerald Whalley and Jim Abram opposing.