The construction of Sidney’s new community safety building, housing fire hall and ambulance service, is well under way. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Sidney’s new fire hall jumps in price by nearly 40 per cent

Already under construction, new building’s price tag goes from $10m to almost $14m

The Town of Sidney is anticipating a nearly 40 per cent increase in the construction cost of its new community safety building — with the potential for even more increases.

An information report scheduled to go before town council tonight shows the original projection for a $10 million building that will house the community’s fire department and BC Ambulance Service, is now expected to hit $13.9 million.

In his report, Sidney’s Director of Corporate Services Andrew Hicik states rising construction costs, worker shortages and a change in the BC Ambulance space in the new building have driven the overall project cost estimate up. Hicik does add there are some cost offsets — such as the BC Ambulance Service’s responsibility for the overage caused by a change in scope to their space — that lowers the overall impact to the Town to around $12.7 million over two years.

Even with that higher-than-anticipated cost, Hicik stated this does not mean the Town’s borrowing will need to increase by that amount. Total borrowing by the Town has been capped at $10 million via bylaw, and staff have said they had only projected to borrow between $5 to $8 million. He said the most recent budget estimate on the building had Sidney borrowing $6.3 million and this change could increase that to $7.2 million — still within that initial borrowing range.

To keep borrowing down, Hicik is presenting revised budget numbers. Sidney is now hoping to get more money from the sale of its current fire hall — $3.25 million in a recent valuation, compared with initial estimates of $2 million. Gas Tax monies for the project are still at $500,000 but the Town is now adding in $300,000 from its infrastructure reserves and another $500,000 from its existing surplus.

It’s still an increase of around $900,000 over the last budget projection — and Hicik noted that’s still in the range previously identified in discussions about the funding of the community safety building.

To help save money, Hicik also outlined plans for “value engineering” — or looking for cost-cutting measures in the tendering process. The most recent tendering process saw three bids coming over the anticipated budget for things like structural steel, concrete and rock anchoring. Hicik noted that due to high demand in the local construction industry, fewer bids were received.

Another bid process concluded at the end of September and Hicik pointed out that “initial results indicate an additional overage.” He reported while definite predictions of more cost overruns is premature “it is important, however, that Council understands that the $14 million projection may, in fact, increase slightly.” Other costs have already come in over budget, such as rebar work in excavating. Other expenses — for pile driving and in-ground mechanical and electrical work — did some in slightly under budget.

Construction of the community safety building is already well under way and in his report, Hicik noted “it is not practical to postpone the CSB; there would be no guarantee that there would be more favourable conditions a year from now, or even two years from now.”

Council is expected to discuss the report at tonight’s council meeting at Town Hall at 7 p.m. Project budget decisions are not anticipated to come up until council goes over its next financial plan.

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