Metro politicians are refusing to say how much the troubled North Shore wastewater treatment plant will end up costing, after suggestions it has blown past its already inflated budget of $1.06 billion.
The soaring cost could soak North Shore taxpayers, who are on the hook for 45 per cent of the construction costs.
Metro Vancouver staff are expected to provide an updated cost estimate for the project to the regional district board this fall, along with recommendations on how to proceed. However, hints emerging after some local politicians were briefed in private on the matter is that the final figure is now expected to be far higher, perhaps fivefold the initial $700-million budget.
The regional district terminated its contract with the initial contractor, the giant multinational Acciona, in late 2021. Metro alleged Acciona missed key milestones in the much-delayed and over-budget project, while Acciona alleged Metro had not paid $100-million for completed work. Metro and Acciona are suing each other.
In July, a Metro staff report said initial work by engineering consultants AECOM found fixes needed to design and early construction problems were more extensive than originally anticipated.
North Vancouver District Mayor Mike Little told Postmedia “the current ($1.06 billion) budget is out of date,” but would not provide a new figure. “That would be in camera at this point.
“Once a draft budget is produced, those items would become public,” Little said. However, he said, $1.06 billion figure “doesn’t reflect current costs.”
Citing sources, Glacier Media vice-president Kirk LaPointe reported the new estimate could be $4 billion in a column published this week in the North Shore News.
West Vancouver Mayor Mike Sager said he was disappointed at the leak, which he said “could have serious implications for the citizens of Metro Vancouver.”
However, he disputed the $4-billion figure, saying it “may not be accurate.” All he would offer is “we are aware of a significant cost overrun.”
Metro Vancouver staff declined to answer questions about that estimate, citing the legal action with Acciona.
The North Shore wastewater plant where construction has now been stalled for at least two years. Metro Vancouver hired Acciona in 2017 to design and build the facility on West 1st Street and Pemberton Avenue, with $405 million in provincial and federal support for an expected $700 million project.
Little said inflation is also playing a role in soaring costs.
“We know Metro is going to be under tremendous amounts of cost pressure, because everyone has been under it.”
Little cited the example of the new Surrey hospital, which Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a cost of $2.88 billion rather than the initial $1.72 billion estimate.
“It’s not unique to (the regional district), for sure,” Little said.
Metro Vancouver, in an Aug. 19 update on the project, said staff are working with AECOM and PCL Constructors, the construction manager the regional district hired last March, on a revised plan, including cost estimate, to complete the project.
The project is intended to replace the region’s almost 60-year-old wastewater plant adjacent to the Lions Gate Bridge and serve some 250,000 homes and businesses.
Little said the North Shore mayors have waited a long time for an updated budget, which has been pushed back from dates in January, March and July, “so it’s been frustrating.”
With files from Dan Fumano
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