Prince George city council covers pool project overrun of nearly $3M with debt

·2 min read
The City of Prince George's new $34 million dollar downtown aquatic complex is scheduled to open to the public in September 2022. (Nicole Oud / CBC - image credit)
The City of Prince George's new $34 million dollar downtown aquatic complex is scheduled to open to the public in September 2022. (Nicole Oud / CBC - image credit)

Prince George council has voted to add $2,876,000 to the construction budget of the city's new downtown pool complex, bringing the project's total cost to $39,126,000, more than $4 million over budget.

In a report to council, director of civic operations Blake McIntosh said rising inflation, including labour and materials costs, added $1.1 million in costs since the project was approved in 2017.

But the largest increase was caused by a clerical error when substandard steel was ordered and delivered.

"Roughly two-thirds ($1.7 million) of these costs are attributed either directly or indirectly to the steel primer deficiency. As reported to council last July (when the estimated cost was $1 million), following the delivery of structural components to the worksite, it was determined that the primer was specified in error and would require significant remediation work," wrote McIntosh.

The city is seeking to recover that cost, including through possible legal action. Prince George will fund the overruns through more debt.

In 2017, Prince George residents voted 62.5% in favour of borrowing up to $35 million for the pool complex. The city has now borrowed more than $28 million to complete the project. The federal and provincial governments have contributed $10 million in grants.

Councillors Kyle Sampson and Brian Skakun opposed the resolution to extend funding.

Coun. Skakun argued any debt will still be paid with tax dollars, and noted rising construction budgets have plagued the current and previous city councils.

"Part of what's going on in the community is that there have been several cost overruns, and even though we can say this one's only $2.8 million or $3 million over budget, I think you take that in an accumulated effect," he said.

In March, council approved a 50 per cent increase to the budget of a new public washroom in Carrie Jane Grey Park, now costing more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

A $12.6 million parkade project ballooned to over $34 million in just over two years and led to the city manager's departure.

During Monday's debate, Coun. Cori Ramsay noted the city has adopted new oversight and approval policies.

"I do also want to point out that under the old delegated authority, this increase would not be coming to us at this stage in the project, and would have been approved by the city manager without council seeing it until it came back under the sustainable finance guidelines," she said.

Council also unanimously approved a new five-year $675,000 Naming Rights Agreement with Canadian Forest Products. The building will be called the Canfor Leisure Pool.

Construction of the new downtown pool is now 84 per cent complete and is expected to open to the public in September.

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