Inverness accepts cost overruns for j-class road projects

PORT HOOD: Inverness Municipal Council has given its approval to increasing budgets for projects taking place on j-class roads around the municipality.

During the regular monthly meeting on Sept. 2, Chief Administrative Officer Keith MacDonald told council the new Department of Public Works is seeking council’s approval of the new amounts so the projects can continue.

“When the j-class roads outline is provided by the Province of Nova Scotia, they would provide an estimate to the municipality but it’s not until they get work underway that they would provide an accurate cost amount, so that’s reflected in the update from that department,” he explained.

MacDonald said the past practice has been to accept the increases, and if council decides to hold-off, this could affect the nature and timeline of the work.

According to Deputy Warden Bonny MacIsaac, the project on Lochness Street is $15,000 over budget and the project on Old Deepdale Road is $19,000 more than what was projected.

“Lochness Street is an absolute mess; it’s a disaster to drive on. It hasn’t been paved since probably the early 1970s,” she told council. “The other road is a gravel road; it has no pavement on it.”

Inverness Warden Laurie Cranton said the municipality will have to pay half of the increases, which comes to approximately $17,000.

District 4 Councillor John MacLennan wanted to know why there are overruns in the first place.

“Pretty well everything that comes in has a cost overrun. You have a tender given out and that tender says everything; what you do, what you don’t do. And then you come back, with 10 per cent or 20 per cent more, I don’t agree with that because they know that we’re going to do it anyway. They got an approval, and then they come back with another percentage on top.”

The CAO said the province would have more details, but there are many factors which hike costs.

“Initially, they do the assessment; they have staff people go to various roadways. Costs may have increased since the estimate was provided in mobilization. They may have identified some additional issues with the road upon further investigation. But usually they provide an estimate, but when it goes out to tender, the tender packages come in over budget,” he noted.

The warden said the tender process allows for “fair competition.”

“It allows a sub-contractor to bid, and if the cheapest bid that’ reliable is 10 per cent over, then that’s what they’re left to deal with,” Cranton responded.

Cranton said council will be discussing and recommending more j-class roads to the province during its September committee-of-the-whole and October regular council meetings.

“If there’s a certain road, we can put in a strong recommendation with the reasons why that road needs attention. There’s a limit to what we can do because it’s them making the final decision here,” he said. “I think council could have a good discussion around that.”

Finance Director Tanya Tibbo received clarification from council that the overruns will be funded from the operating reserve in the municipality’s capital budget.

“There is a small amount of funding within the operations budget for capital items that were unanticipated,” she added.