The removal of Ponoka’s old town hall last summer showed it went over budget by $11,400. Council tabled the request to allocate the funds pending more information from administration. File photo

Over budget requests bring concern over project planning in Ponoka

It raised concerns from council of little to no project management in the Town of Ponoka.

Over budget projects raised concerns from council of little to no project management in the Town of Ponoka.

Council heard of two projects — during its regular meeting Sept. 12 — conducted in the summer of 2016 that went over budget.

The projects relate to the old town hall demolition and the town-owned home that was torn down around the same time. Originally the project was estimated at $89,000, plus another $14,000 to have a company monitor the removal of asbestos.

The project, which was completed last year, went over by $11,400.

Justin Caslor, engineering technician for the Town of Ponoka, explained that landscaping was one issue that caused the project to go over. Landscaping was over by $600.

The approval was done without his knowledge and without a proper tender process, explained Caslor.

He blamed Kelsey Hycha, the town’s former facilities manager, for the error, stating that a proper request for proposals was not followed and that one company was hired.

According to Caslor the issue was worsened when Dave McPhee, the town’s former director of operations and property services, made a decision to move forward.

The excuse didn’t sit too well with council.

A major item in the project that was over budget was a water line disconnection at $7,000. Coun. Teri Underhill asked about that cost and the extra dollars for the street patching cost of $2,500.

CAO Albert Flootman said while doing the demolition it was determined that extra work was needed on the water line before the project could be completed.

Underhill said that since the town knew the project was going to cost more there should have been a plan. The company doing the work has already been paid.

Coun. Loanna Gulka suggests that knowing would have been better for council.

Coun. Sandra Lyon agreed and suggested that this information was from last year.

For Coun. Carla Prediger, it was about accountability.“We talk about people who aren’t here but we have to take responsibility somewhere,” said Prediger.

She says the whole council package provided is about items that are over budget, or underestimated.

Flootman responded that the responsibility falls to him ultimately and he is working with staff on ensuring this doesn’t happen again. He added that it has taken some time to get back to council because not all the information was readily available.

“I will address it with staff to make sure that we are addressing it,” said Flootman.

Mayor Rick Bonnett had another idea; he suggested that administration take the extra costs out of its operations budget and staff should figure out how to make it work.

Indeed, Prediger made the motion that the funds come from the operating budget but Lyon asked if there is money in the town’s operations budget to make it work. Sandra Lund, director of corporate services, replied the budget is extremely tight.

“We need to make sure that there is something in place to ensure that this doesn’t occur,” offered Prediger.

“How do we make sure that we’ve got accountability frameworks in place?” she asked.

Prediger’s motion was defeated in a three-way tie with Bonnett, Underhill and Prediger voting in favour and councillors Lyon, Gulka and Marc Yaworski speaking against (Coun. Tim Falkiner was not in attendance). A further motion to approve the request was defeated in the same three-way tie.

The request was subsequently tabled to return to council’s next meeting.

Home demolition over budget

The next request from Caslor related to the demolition of the town-owned home just behind the old town hall.

The project went over budget to $51,730, up from the, $45,750 budgeted. Landscaping was over at $4,000 as well as the need for a power generator, which cost $1,980.

Caslor said the need for the generator was due to asbestos abatement.

The house demolition project was already over budget.

At its May 10, 2016 meeting council approved the demolition at $12,000. Two meetings later it came to the attention of council that the cost would be another $28,000, totalling $40,000 mostly due to the asbestos abatement.

Lund told council that she would bring this request back and tie it together with the town hall demolition project as they were all done by the same company.

The request was tabled.

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