Gut wrench­ing!

Coun­cil has to weigh fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity with pub­lic safety


The ink wasn’t dry on their oaths of of­fice when mem­bers of the newly elected Carbonear town coun­cil were faced with some gut wrench­ing de­ci­sions.

Driv­ers who use the busy Beach Road in Carbonear may have to con­tend with the con­di­tion of the old Gut Bridge un­til next spring.

Coun­cil had in­tended to re­place the 41-year-old struc­ture this year. But the project has come in at close to $500,000 (half a mil­lion dol­lars) more than ex­pected, leav­ing coun­cil with hav­ing to weigh fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity with pub­lic safety.

Con­sid­er­ing the late­ness of the construction sea­son and with win­ter around the cor­ner, the project could be de­layed un­til next year.

The is­sue came in for dis­cus­sion Oct. 19 dur­ing the first reg­u­lar pub­lic meet­ing of the newly minted town coun­cil.

The item came up un­der “cor­re­spon­dence re­ceived and action taken.” Har­ris & As­so­ci­ates copy of let­ter to depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Sept. 21. Re­quest for ad­di­tional fund­ing to award con­tract to New­found Construction for the com­ple­tion of the Gut Bridge up­grad­ing project.”

While Mayor Sam Slade in­di­cated a pref­er­ence to dis­cuss the is­sue later, Coun. Gla­dys Mercer said, “I don’t know why we can’t dis­cuss it now.”

Coun. Ed Goff agreed, adding, “I wouldn’t mind dis­cussing it.”

Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Cyn­thia Davis ex­plained the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate for the project was $610,725. But af­ter it went to pub­lic ten­der, the to­tal project cost ended up at $1,087,000 - $476,275 higher than the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate.

“Why was it over bud­get,” Coun. Goff wanted to know.

“We’re not able to an­swer that,” mayor Slade replied.

“How could the en­gi­neer­ing com­pany be that much out,” Coun. Goff con­tin­ued?

Davis ex­plained the orig­i­nal es­ti­mates pro­vided by the en­gi­neers were con­sid­ered to be rea­son­able at the time they were pre­pared.

Mayor Slade added when the pro­vin­cial en­gi­neers checked the en­gi­neer­ing firm’s orig­i­nal fig­ures they were found to be “dead in.” The mayor added: “I’m told the ma­te­ri­als alone for that bridge will cost $250,000.”

The project is be­ing cost shared on an 80/20 per cent ba­sis, with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for the larger por­tion and the town pick­ing up the re­main­ing one fifth.

The new price would bring the prov­ince’s share to $869,600. That’s $381,000 more than the orig­i­nal fig­ure they were ex­pect­ing to pay. And the town’s share would be $217,400. That’s $95,255 over the town’s orig­i­nal es­ti­mated share. Cyn­thia Davis told The Com-pass af­ter­wards, the ques­tion is, “will the prov­ince be will­ing to come up with the ex­tra (al­most $400,000). “There’s no way we (town) could take it on at that ad­di­tional cost,” she said.

She also ex­plained the con­sul­tant’s fees have to be fac­tored into the cost in­crease.

When he asked if the ten­der has yet been awarded, dep. mayor Ches Ash was told it has not.

To clar­ify the ten­der­ing process, mayor Slade told coun­cil that two tenders were re­ceived on this project and “the other was much high- er.” Mayor Slade cau­tioned the new coun­cil, “we got to be very care­ful here we don’t af­fect the pub­lic ten­der­ing act.”

Dep. mayor Ash said, “it seems to me we have to be as fis­cally re­spon­si­ble as we can — to sim­ply go ahead would not be fis­cally re­spon­si­ble if there is an­other op­tion.”

While coun­cil wants to be fis­cally re­spon­si­ble, it also has the pub­lic safety is­sue to con­sider with the bridge.

Asked about the safety is­sue, Brian O’Grady, told coun­cil, struc­tural en­gi­neers were orig­i­nally brought in to check the con­crete abut­ments. There are 12 beams hold­ing up the bridge he ex­plained, and some of the re­bar is ex­posed. That has slowed down the process and we’re get­ting late into the sea­son now, the di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and pub­lic works noted.

He said the en­gi­neers re­ported that one side of the bridge was po­ten­tially un­safe for heavy truck traf­fic.

The di­rec­tor also sug­gested the vol­ume of construction work cur­rently un­der­way around the prov­ince has also af­fected the cost of the project.

Ear­lier this sum­mer the bridge was re­duced to one lane with traf­fic lights and one-way traf­fic. The bar­ri­cades were later shifted back al­low­ing two-way traf­fic to re­sume.

Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Davis re­ported that, al­though they don’t have it in writ­ing, coun­cil has been told by the en­gi­neers that the bridge is safe for one lane.

Be­fore she would agree to leave the bridge like it is for the win-- ter, Coun. Gla­dys Mercer said she would want to have some as­sur­ance from the en­gi­neers that it is safe for the pub­lic to drive over, and she would like to have it in writ­ing.

Mayor Slade asked the town ad­min­is­tra­tor to check with the en­gi­neers to con­firm if the bridge can re­main the way it is for the win­ter months.

Coun. Mercer asked if all coun­cil­lors could get a copy of the en­gi­neer’s re­port on the bridge. Copies of the re­port will be placed in coun­cil­lors’ trays.

Bill Bow­man/The Com­pass

A lot of wa­ter has flowed un­der the Gut Bridge and a lot of ve­hi­cles have drive over it since it was built in 1968. Af­ter 41 years, the old struc­ture has seen bet­ter days - ero­sion and wear and tear have taken their toll and the bridge has to be re­placed. But that may not hap­pen un­til next year.

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