Alix lagoon project estimates jumps another $1 million

·3 min read

Village of Alix council debated their options for a proposed lagoon rehabilitation project as they were told estimates of the project jumped another $1 million.

The debate occurred at the Nov. 3 regular meeting of council.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White gave councillors an update on the 2022 capital budget, which is the budget that includes construction and infrastructure projects.

She reported that MPE Engineering, which has been handling the village’s proposed lagoon rehabilitation project for several years, contacted her recently to say the project estimate has jumped by $1 million to an estimated $4.2 million.

MPE Engineering had reported a few weeks ago at a council meeting that the project estimate was about $3.23 million.

“Ah, jeez,” groaned Coun. Ed Cole, who added later that it equals a roughly 25 per cent jump over the previous estimate.

White then gave councillors a rundown of funds the village has available which total just over $800,000, including two large grants and a portion of local taxpayer money.

She noted the village’s funds don’t even cover the latest $1 million.

The CAO went on to explain MPE Engineering told her that many factors were causing the project jumps, including supply chain problems, contractor issues and the Louisiana hurricanes and that the engineering firm is doing everything it can to keep costs down.

Coun. Tim Besuijen stated he wanted more information than that.

“We want specifics,” he said, noting that the hurricanes are over and he would like to see an engineering report or a breakdown of estimates.

White stated she felt the higher estimates came in because the engineers were hedging their bets to ensure bids don’t come in over budget.

She also suggested more clarity from engineers on what councillors can expect down the road with this project.

Mayor Rob Fehr was not optimistic council will get such information.

“I bet you we won’t get anything,” said Fehr, adding that he feels the higher estimates were based on conversations within the industry and that the $1 million jump was “...pretty substantial.”

T. Besuijen stated engineering firms give out different classes of estimates and he felt that MPE must have something they can give council.

Mayor Fehr asked the CAO what options the village has, and she answered she wasn’t sure what the benefit of a second opinion would be.

She noted the Village of Alix has, to this point, paid MPE Engineering about $65,000 in fees for the lagoon rehab project.

Fehr suggested all possible options should be exhausted before councillors make a decision. “I just don’t want us to be painted into a corner,” said Fehr.

Coun. Barb Gilliat asked if the estimate jumps were going to stop or continue.

Coun. Janice Besuijen asked the CAO if council decides to go with new engineers for the project, how far back does the planning have to go?

White answered, on top of the fees, the village would probably lose one year of construction and also set back the village’s lobbying efforts to get more grant money for this project.

She also noted, however, the provincial government already told municipalities some grant programs like municipal sustainability initiative in 2022 will be much lower, quoting a letter which read, “...every municipality and Metis Settlement is estimated to receive 40.6 per cent of what they received in 2021.”

White stated she felt it was very important to secure funding for the project first before proceeding any further.

Councillors unanimously approved the 2022 capital budget as it was presented.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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