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Municipal hall renovations skyrocket to $16 million

Staff report recommends abandoning project



Council will consider abandoning the municipal hall renovation after costs estimates now put the project more than 200 per cent over budget.

The original budget, approved just eight months ago, was $5.7 million. The detailed cost estimates are now at almost $16 million for a project that would expand the hall, improve accessibility and create a new council chambers/Emergency Operations Centre.

Staff will be submitting a report to council Monday night recommending against proceeding with the project.

Council will debate the issue and decide whether or not to move ahead.

Diane Mombourquette, general manager of economic viability, explained the jump in cost prices.

“When the budget was put together at $5.785 million, that was the best information that we had at the time,” she said. “But we didn’t do a lot of detailed analysis to put that together.”

That budget included a 23 per cent contingency fund.

After council approved that budget in November, amid concerns about rising construction costs, staff hired a firm to do an extensive project cost analysis. That’s when the numbers came in at close to $16 million.

It is not clear exactly why the numbers jumped so high at this time.

Part of the jump can be explained by rising construction costs. Other facets of the project came in far higher than expected, such as the geotechnical work.

“When staff saw the increased cost compared to the budget, they thought ‘there’s just no way — we can’t recommend this based on that kind of a discrepancy,’” said Mombourquette.

The numbers are just another example of rising construction costs being felt at a time when large capital projects are underway in Whistler and across much of British Columbia. The same problems have plagued the municipal library project, which is more than $3 million over its original budget. The municipality has been criticized for that project but construction began on the library just as costs began their biggest swell in recent memory.

When council first approved the municipal hall expansion and renovation, the library weighed heavily on the minds of some councillors.

Councillor Bob Lorriman said at the time: “I want to make sure that we don’t go beyond this budget (of $5.7 million).”

If council chooses to abandon the project, staff will ask to proceed with upgrades to the south entrance of municipal hall, facing the village.

The upgrades will be designed to improve its accessibility and appearance from Town Plaza.

Staff will also investigate additional office space requirements and the cost of meeting those needs by adding trailers to the parking lot.

Several staff members are without a permanent desk in the hall.

A full municipal hall renovation will likely not be considered until after the 2010 Winter Games.