/Free beer tomorrow 

Free beer tomorrow 

By Chad Ingram

During a Minden Hills committee-of-the-whole meeting last weekcouncillors received a report confirming there will likely be no surplus on the township’s arena project.

What a shock.

Back when theproject was getting underway the supposed benefits of its “integratedproject delivery” design were frequently touted by the township’s mayor the now-former community services director and the construction andarchitecture companies team that got the very lucrative contract. Amidcommunity concerns about the project’s immense price tag we were toldagain and again about the miracles of the framework’s “profit pool.”The profit pool was to be where any savings found via subcontractingcontracts on the project would be kept to be split between thecompanies which oversaw tendering sub-trades and the township when the project was complete.

Back in July of last year with the contingencyfund sitting at nearly $300000 $80000 was “released” $40000 of itgoing to the companies and $40000 to the township since theconstruction company “felt comfortable” with it at the time thetownship’s now-former community services director said. Later in theyear the construction company came back to council asking for andreceiving an additional $250000 to complete the project bringing itstotal budget to a staggering $12.75 million.

Even with thatadditional money there is no money left over. There is no profit pool.Not even a kiddie-sized one. And there was never going to be.

Thevery first phase of the project the so-called “validation phase” –essentially a series of engineering assessments – went way over theamount council had approved for it. Council had initially approved$140000 for the validation phase and ultimately all-in withadditional work legal expenses and meeting costs – including conference calls and lunches – it ended up costing $353000. A bad start and acrystal clear indication of how the rest of project was going to go.
But at the time we were told not to fret. Through the tendering processesthere would be savings and at the end the companies and the townshipwould bask in the glory of the profit pool the township’s share ofthose funds going to pay for “value-added items” at the facility thoseitems ranging from a retractable stage to murals to office furniture.

There are $440000 worth of “value-added items” on that list $130000 ofwhich can be paid for through an Ontario Trillium Foundation grantleaving approximately $310000 for the township to deal with. The onlyitem council seems particularly concerned about at this point is officefurniture for community services staff. Because that’s what we’re leftwith. A nearly $13-million facility with no office furniture in it.

Even the quotes for these value-added items that came through theconstruction company have been subject to significant markups from itsinitial estimates. In the words of Councillor Bob Carter “Our markupsare 82 per cent and they estimated 20. They were that far off?”

Itseems clear that those remaining items will be dealt with in-house orthrough township-led tendering processes. As Carter said “I don’t think we need our engineers and construction company to be helping us withour interior decorating.”
We sure don’t. It’s time for them to finish up and get out. This ride has gone on long enough.

The first misstep in this process took place about 15 months ago when fourof seven members of Minden Hills council voted to award a multi-millionproject to a lone bidder. On such a substantial project the townshipshould have waited until it had at least three competitive bids.