Park costs climb again

Project be­gan af­ter tar­like sub­stance dis­cov­ered in 2012

The Observer (Sarnia) - - FRONT PAGE - TYLER KULA

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.

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