Composting facility hits almost $14 million 

Despite high price construction is on time, tender awarded to Graham Infrastructure

The cost to build Whistler’s first composting facility continues to climb, with another $1 million increase reported this week.

The total budget now rests at $13.8 million, up significantly from the original $6 million quote.

According to acting mayor Gord McKeever, the recent price jump comes from construction cost escalations, due mainly to a shortage of workers and increase in material costs.

“Really the biggest challenge with the compactor site was building it in the middle-to-latter half of this decade, which has been a horror story,” said McKeever.

“One of the interesting things about construction in general right now is you don’t get a fixed price quote. Developers won’t make a commitment for material costs if it’s not something they are going to buy right now.”

“Hopefully we’ll see things settle down post-Games.”

John Nelson, capital projects manager for the municipality, added that no major changes have been made to the design or construction, and the new $13.8 million figure includes a contingency of $800,000.

To mitigate the $1 million increase, council approved an equal reduction to the budget of the treatment plant on Tuesday, May 20. The total budget remains at $51.6 million for both projects.

The new price to compost raised the ire of several council members, including Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden who voiced concerns about future cost increases to the project.

“This one may have gotten away from us a little bit, and maybe that is the price of being leading-edge,” said Wilhelm-Morden.

“I am most concerned about the size of the budget that is associated with this facility, and I will be very reluctant to support any additional increases.”

Councillor Ralph Rosyth echoed Wilhelm-Morden’s apprehension.

“This is fraught with risk,” said Forsyth.

“We have tried to make the best decisions for all the right reasons… but it did go from a $5 million budget to a $13.8 million budget. It keeps me up at night sometimes.”

The project has come under public scrutiny since October, when an initial $6.5 million budget jump was reported. The price increase came just two months after the project was first approved.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councillor Bob Lorriman spoke to the larger picture of disposing of waste, referring to the fact that Whistler currently ships about 17,000 tonnes of garbage to the Rabanco landfill in Washington every year via rail.

“I think when we get into this discussion of (the compost) budget, it becomes kind of theoretical,“ said Lorriman.

“What if we were not building a composting facility? If we did not have the composting facility, would we be shipping this stuff with our other garbage down to Rabanco? We all know what fuel costs are doing these days. You have to balance the two.”

Construction on the compost facility continues aggressively, said Nelson, and new equipment is being moved into the recently built structure.

Nelson added that about $6.6 million was spent on the project in 2007, with another $7 million anticipated for 2008 to pay for tender costs, equipment, electrical components and administration costs.

“We hope to see a fairly significant completion of a lot of the facilities by the end of this year,” said Nelson.

The business plan for the project is currently being ironed out, and includes an option of contracting the composted waste to a private company to handle.

Council also awarded the tender to complete work on the facility to Graham Infrastructure on Tuesday. Graham Infrastructure had the lowest bid, at $3.6 million and has worked previously on other municipal projects.

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