Park costs climb again
Project began after tarlike substance discovered in 2012
Council probably should been prepared.
That’s what Coun. Mike Kelch said at city hall Monday about the now $12.8-million bill for Centennial Park soil remediation and park revitalization, including separate but related water and wastewater infrastructure work.
“Typically when you are doing a remediation of a piece of property that has been involved in an industrial use, it’s very common to put about 25 to 35 per cent of your project cost as a contingency,” said Kelch, reminding his peers about his four decades experience working in the Chemical Valley.
“That’s because — if you are working on an industrial site, or in this case an industrial dump, or both — because it actually was both — you’re going to find stuff that you didn’t know was there.”
He made the prediction in 2012, he said, that remediating lead and asbestos-contaminated soil, after a tar-like substance was found bubbling up in the waterside park, would be a five-year project costing upwards of $12 million.
“I was pretty close on my estimates though as it turned out,” he said.
The new nearly $13-million figure combines all the expenses — including about $400,000 for a new boat ramp and Sarnia Bay Marina parking lot that still needs to be done –— plus an extra $248,000 for fence rentals, security costs and vandalism remediation, said Marg Misek-Evans, the city’s chief administrator.
True to Kelch’s prediction, the project has run into stumbling block after stumbling block as contractors removed the contaminated soil, capped the remainder, and reshaped the 38-acre park.
That included following Environment Ministry regulations throughout.
Council should be proud of the progress made, said Coun. Bev MacDougall.
“We have a park now that we can pass onto our children and grandchildren knowing that we were responsible to some undocumented things that were put in that ground 50 years or more ago,” she said.
The Sarnia gasworks, producing gas from coal, was located across from the park at Maxwell and Front streets between 1884 and 1909, and when the city purchased the property to create a park in the 1960s, there were all kinds of industrial uses on the waterfront, Coun. Dave Boushy has said.
Monday, he and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley were the only ones to vote against more money for the project.
“A lot of evenings I didn’t sleep because that’s a lot of money here, a lot of money,” Boushy said. “I struggle with this.”
He linked the cost increase with council’s move last year to restrict Bradley’s access at city hall after a workplace investigation concluded he harassed and bullied senior staff.
“A lot of people,” Boushy said, say council’s “biggest mistake was for us to exclude from decision making overall the most knowledgeable mayor in all Ontario.”
He added “God help the taxpayers of Sarnia.”
MacDougall, speaking after Boushy, said she’s tired of councillors using park remediation as a wedge issue.
“I’m ashamed we’ve been using this particular project as a club to pick up intermittently and club each other over the head with it,” she said, agreeing with Kelch that if council erred anywhere it was not being realistic with the project cost.
“If that was my mistake, I’m sorry for that,” she said.
“But I am not sorry we cleaned up this park because I have my eye to the future.”
The new park had its official opening in June.