A work site on Highway 19A. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

A work site on Highway 19A. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

Underestimated costs, challenging field conditions double south Campbell River sewer project budget

Phase 1 completed, phase 2 stalled by archaeological discovery

The first phase of the South Campbell River Sewer Project is complete but its cost was double what was expected, while the second phase hit a delay due to an archaeological discovery on site.

The South Campbell River Sewer Project includes sewer main upgrades along Highway 19A. The first phase of this project, which was managed by the city and included upgrades between Maryland Road and Twillingate Road, is now complete.

But eyebrows raised in the city council meeting on Nov. 1, when council was asked to approve an amended budget for the project, as its final cost range in at $1.16 million, about double of its approved budget of $575,000.

Council approved the amendment after being told by staff that project invoices were reviewed and in order, meaning the city is effectively obligated to pay the contractor, Upland Contracting.

Part of the reason for this cost overrun was the city had to deviate from its typical capital works policy to advance the project quickly, said Ron Neufeld, deputy city manager, in an interview.

“We became aware that there were capacity problems there, and we needed to address that to deal with the volume of sewage that was generated from the existing developments in that area,” he said.

Normally, the city undergoes detailed field investigations and preliminary engineering work to inform tender requests, but with less time, these were limited.

“Because we weren’t able to put in our normal level of investigation upfront, we had a cost estimate that probably was less accurate than what we would normally have,” he said.

Then during construction, workers reportedly encountered more challenging conditions than anticipated, including extensive bedrock requiring removal.

This increased labour, equipment and engineering costs.

“We had to respond based on the conditions that we found in the field,” said Neufeld.

These added costs will be met through the city’s sewer reserve, which prior to the amended budget approval, equaled about $3.2 million. This means the city’s 10-year capital plan for sewer upgrades will be unaffected by the decision.

The second phase of the project, stretching between Twillingate Road and Barlow Road, is being managed by a developer, with two other developers and the city as partners. Work on this phase started in September, but was paused on Oct. 12, when potential archaeological materials were discovered on site without a heritage inspection permit being in place.

The permit has since been granted, meaning the contractor can start to reschedule work, said Neufeld. In the report, city staff noted this discovery will impact the project schedule, but that the developer remains obligated to complete this phase by June 2022.

During the meeting, Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he was concerned this phase of the project could be affected by cost overruns too.

But discussions about the agreement were moved in camera.

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