Fulford Water Commission reports on water main project budget issue

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Editor’s note: After a July 31 meeting with Capital Regional District staff, Fulford Water Commission members Carole Eyles, Tony Maude, Alan Martin and Gord Singbeil wrote the following in order to report out to the water system’s 100 ratepaying users about a water main replacement project on Morningside Road. At the July 31 meeting, the commission advised CRD staff to cease work on the project and did not authorize the expenditure of further funds. The relevant report with all financial details is available on the CRD website

This is an information notice to the users of the Fulford Water Services whose interest we, the Fulford Water Commissioners, represent in interactions with the Capital Regional District. Unfortunately, information privacy policies as interpreted by the CRD do not allow us access to an email list of users and so we are forced to communicate in this more public format.

On July 31, we met with the CRD staff who updated us on a project we discussed in 2016. This related to exposure of a water line due to erosion. At that time we reviewed a proposal to remedy the issue, and approved the requested budget of $32,000 in September of 2016. 

Delays within the CRD infrastructure caused the project to be delayed until this fiscal year. At the July 31 meeting we were told that the $32,000 that we had originally approved for the whole project had already been spent by the CRD in the design and project management phase of the work to date, even though no construction had yet taken place. The sole purpose of this recent meeting was to ask us to approve a revised budget for the project, which now came in at an astonishing $102,570. This included a further $10,620 for CRD expenses, which would now be over 40 per cent of the total project cost. It also included $53,000 for construction costs, more than four times the original construction estimate. 

With 100 users the project’s original budget represented $320 each. Those funds have been expended ($31,440) and the request to authorize $71,130 more amounts to an additional $711.30 each user. This was all done without consultation or even notice to the commissioners, whose role is to authorize funds required and to ensure due diligence in receiving value for money spent.

The budget issues were well known months before the project went to tender, yet funds to support the project completion were never requested until this meeting, resulting in the waste of a significant amount of money on a process that we could not support. 

We reiterated that the budget we approved only authorized the payment of CRD management expenses to $15,500, given the original estimate of $32,000, of which $12,000 represented the actual construction costs, and stated that the commission will not be responsible for the amount overspent.

We have had similar issues in the past and the policy of the CRD is that the users of the utility are responsible for all CRD costs, authorized or not, so this may be a futile exercise. However, we felt it important that all users be aware of the current situation and the autocratic nature of CRD that appears to safeguard our interests without giving us any real control over the funds charged to the users. 

Given (i) the huge increase in budget and (ii) the reasons given to us: work more complicated than anticipated, CRD staff shortages and the current over-heated construction market, we felt the only decision we could take was to direct the CRD to cease work on the project, and complete the project at a future date when conditions might be more favourable. We feel the expending of your funds in excess of the approved budget is unacceptable, and will continue to represent your interests to the chairman and board of the CRD, along with the provincial government, to ensure that the losses are mitigated to the best of our abilities. 

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