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Panel needed to oversee large civic projects: Richmond city councillor

Project costs have risen significantly over the past eight years.
The Richmond Recycling Depot on Lynas Lane. (Google Maps)

One Richmond city councillor is calling for a “blue-ribbon panel” to oversee the construction of major infrastructure projects.

Coun. Kash Heed intends to bring a motion in early July to city council to establish this panel in order to ensure “accountability, transparency, risk management, compliance and quality assurance” in projects that are worth $50 million or more.

Two such projects are underway this year in Richmond – the rebuilding of Steveston Community Centre, whose budget is $90 million, and the first phase of the rebuilding of the city works yard on Lynas Lane, worth $70 million.

Heed wants the panel to have five people with “diverse expertise in major infrastructure projects.”

They would meet quarterly and be paid rates similar to government committee members.

“The committee’s oversight will uphold the highest standards of efficiency and effectiveness, thus reinforcing public trust and supporting Richmond’s long-term infrastructure goals,” Heed stated in his rationale for the motion.

Costs rising for large civic projects

Costs have escalated for several projects identified as priorities by Richmond city council.

A glance back at a report from 2016 that outlines the city’s “top five major facility projects” for 2016 to 2026 shows that three of them have been budgeted for much more than originally estimated.

However, city staff note in their 2016 report that the estimates are “based on conceptual possibilities only” and, once the planning and design are completed, “the capital and operating budget impact costs related to program options will be developed for Council consideration.”

The Steveston Community Centre and library reconstruction is now pegged at $90 million. But in 2016, city staff estimated it would cost $40 million to $54 million.

The Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site and Phoenix Net Loft were estimated to cost $6.8 million to $8.3 million. Now the reconstruction of the net loft, which was demolished two years ago, is estimated at $50 million.

Similarly, in 2016, city staff estimated that the lawn bowling clubhouse in Minoru Park would cost between $1 million and $3.2 million. In 2019, city council approved a budget of $5.3 million. However, last year, the size of the plan was reduced by 1,700 square feet to stay within the $5.3 million budget.

The Richmond Animal Shelter was fully renovated to the tune of $5.6 million in 2022. Its original estimated cost was between $5 million and $8 million. 

While the Minoru Centre for Active Living stayed within its budget of $70 million, it was delayed by about two years and the aquatic portion was further delayed after cracks were found in two pools.

Furthermore, the builder, Stuart Olson, is suing the city for $7 million over its construction. The company claims the city caused the delays and therefore increased the construction costs.

As for provincial projects, the BC NDP government recently announced the cost of the Richmond Hospital rebuild has gone from $861 million to $1.9 billion.

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