Some bud­get items on tar­get

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK ash­ley.fitz­patrick@thetele­gram.com

Ahead of Bud­get 2018, The Telegram did a checkup on some of the spend­ing high­lighted by the gov­ern­ment at the time of the last provin­cial bud­get.

The fo­cus was on planned in­fra­struc­ture projects and items em­pha­sized in Lib­eral bud­get doc­u­ments. The largest ex­pen­di­tures by the gov­ern­ment, re­lat­ing to salaries and op­er­a­tional costs, con­tinue to be tied to on­go­ing union ne­go­ti­a­tions and new con­tract deals.

Some of the one-off items an­nounced in Bud­get 2017 are com­ing in un­der bud­get, some are on bud­get and some are cost­ing more than ex­pected. Some items have since been re­con­sid­ered. A few items are high­lighted here.

Con­sul­ta­tions for Bud­get 2018 are on­go­ing. If there is a par­tic­u­lar project for the fu­ture you would like to voice sup­port for, in-per­son con­sul­ta­tions — pub­lic meet­ings — are ex­pected to be­gin Jan. 15. De­tails on spe­cific dates, times and lo­ca­tions are ex­pected soon. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on­line at en­ga­genl.ca.

Western Me­mo­rial Re­gional Hos­pi­tal

At bud­get time, the Lib­er­als an­nounced $13.2 mil­lion to ad­vance the re­place­ment of the Cor­ner Brook hos­pi­tal.

To date, about $600,000 has ac­tu­ally been spent. About $1.5 mil­lion is ex­pected to be spent by fi­nan­cial year-end.

The money used so far has been to en­gage con­sul­tants, who will ad­vise the gov­ern­ment on the part­ner­ship project and are in­volved in pre­par­ing re­lated doc­u­ments — cov­er­ing the build­ing’s de­sign, con­struc­tion, fi­nanc­ing and long-term main­te­nance.

The next step for the gov­ern­ment is to is­sue a re­quest for qual­i­fi­ca­tion for com­pa­nies, or any part­ner­ships of com­pa­nies, in­ter­ested in tak­ing the project on.

Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to start in 2019.

Long-term care fa­cil­i­ties

Bud­get 2017 iden­ti­fied $4.6 mil­lion for long-term care fa­cil­i­ties in Cor­ner Brook and Cen­tral. About $850,000 of that has been spent so far and $1.8 mil­lion is set to be spent by the end of the fis­cal year.

In Cen­tral, a re­quest for qual­i­fi­ca­tions is ex­pected to go out this month, for com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in tak­ing on the con­struc­tion.

For Cor­ner Brook, it was an­nounced in Novem­ber 2017 the Cor­ner Brook Care Part­ner­ship will build the new fa­cil­ity. The con­tract cov­ers the next 30 years of the fa­cil­ity’s life and is val­ued at about $120 mil­lion.

The Cor­ner Brook Care Part­ner­ship is led by Ple­nary Group and in­cludes Montgomery Sisam Ar­chi­tects, Marco Ser­vices and G.J. Cahill.

It is ex­pected to open in 2020.

New Fam­ily Court

There was recog­ni­tion on the part of the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, af­ter tak­ing the reins in late 2015, that the Fam­ily Court fa­cil­ity re­quired im­prove­ments and ex­pan­sion.

In the 2016 bud­get speech, the gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to a $1-mil­lion ex­pan­sion over two years, to al­low for fewer de­lays with more cases be­ing heard, the min­is­ter stated.

In 2017, that in­cluded $450,000, to ren­o­vate for the court’s ex­pan­sion. The ren­o­va­tions will be to the Ar­gyle Build­ing, for­merly home to the prov­ince’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion (RDC). Fam­ily Court will make the move from its cur­rent home at 21 King’s Bridge Rd. to the build­ing at 68 Por­tu­gal Cove Rd.

The bud­get hasn’t been spent at this point, but a ten­der process was com­pleted just be­fore Christ­mas to trans­form the build­ing, in­clud­ing re­quired se­cu­rity up­grades.

A re­port com­pleted af­ter the pub­lic ten­der call shows the work had been re-ten­dered, re­sult­ing in four bids, with the low­est at $1.6 mil­lion.

Court plans

One of the high­lighted ex­pen­di­tures planned for Jus­tice in 2017-18 was $500,000 for ad­vanc­ing the plan­ning for a new court fa­cil­ity in St. John’s. That ex­pen­di­ture has not yet been made and is cur­rently un­der re­view, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment.

Spend­ing on plan­ning for the St. John’s courts and sup­port­ing of­fices was also an­nounced un­der the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives.

Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary

The last provin­cial bud­get in­cluded $100,000 for a val­ue­for-money as­sess­ment for a re­place­ment to Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary in St. John’s.

There have been mul­ti­ple calls for years for a re­place­ment for the prison. In 2014, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives re­ported the ini­tial de­sign phase was “well un­der­way.”

A value-for-money as­sess­ment pro­posed by the Lib­er­als would be used to de­ter­mine the ap­proach to fi­nanc­ing the project — to de­ter­mine if it could go ahead as a tra­di­tional con­struc­tion or if it is bet­ter suited to a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (P3) de­vel­op­ment.

A re­quest for pro­pos­als, seek­ing com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in com­plet­ing as­sess­ment, was is­sued by the gov­ern­ment since bud­get day.

“Once the pro­posal process is com­plete, we will be­gin the process of award­ing a con­tract (for the as­sess­ment),” a depart­ment spokes­woman stated.

The Water­ford Hos­pi­tal

At bud­get time, the an­nounced com­mit­ment for ad­vance­ment of a re­place­ment for the Water­ford Hos­pi­tal was $7.5 mil­lion.

About $300,000 has been spent so far, with $400,000 ex­pected to be spent by fi­nan­cial year-end.

The money has been spent on re-eval­u­at­ing the project, as per the prov­ince’s new men­tal health and ad­dic­tions ac­tion plan, re­leased in July 2017.

The plan stated the hos­pi­tal “must be re­placed as an ur­gent pri­or­ity,” but also stated hav­ing all of the ser­vices of­fered at the Water­ford Hos­pi­tal con­tin­ued in a sin­gle lo­ca­tion was not the best ap­proach for the fu­ture.

“The provin­cial gov­ern­ment must in­ves­ti­gate op­tions for re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing hos­pi­tal with in-pa­tient ser­vices as well as more ser­vices pro­vided in com­mu­nity closer to home,” the re­port stated, adding there should be a re­lated plan ready to re­port within a year. “Ser­vices at the Water­ford Hos­pi­tal must con­tinue un­til new ser­vices are in place.”

In un­der bud­get

The fi­nal re­port from the Premier’s Task Force on Im­prov­ing Ed­u­ca­tional Out­comes was pre­sented to the pub­lic in July.

The task force — in­clud­ing chair Alice Collins, David Philpott, Mar­ian Fushell and Mar­garet Wake­ham — set­tled on 82 rec­om­men­da­tions to sup­port a new Ed­u­ca­tion Ac­tion Plan and in­form Bud­get 2018, and changes largely start­ing in the 2018 school year.

The task force was ef­fi­cient. A Bud­get 2017 an­nounce­ment in­cluded $100,000 to sup­port the com­ple­tion of their work, but not all of it was needed.

Over two fis­cal years, the team was pro­vided a to­tal bud­get of $277,000, but spent only $213,500 (not need­ing all of this year’s al­lo­ca­tion).

At the end of two years, they came in about 23 per cent un­der the orig­i­nal bud­get.

Fish­eries funds

For Fish­eries, Bud­get 2017 was about tri­als, trans­for­ma­tions and tran­si­tions.

There was $2.8 mil­lion for the Aqua­cul­ture Cap­i­tal Eq­uity Pro­gram, $2 mil­lion for the Seafood In­no­va­tion and Tran­si­tion Pro­gram and $100,000 for the Fish­eries Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

The coun­cil’s funds have been tapped in full and both pro­grams are fully sub­scribed, or ex­pected to be be­fore the fis­cal year is out, ac­cord­ing to a depart­ment spokesman.

At bud­get time, $500,000 for a Fish Plant Worker Em­ploy­ment Sup­port Pro­gram was high­lighted. That is ad­min­is­tered by the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment and makes fund­ing avail­able to cre­ate short-term em­ploy­ment for plant work­ers who need ad­di­tional weeks to qual­ify for Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance.

While the bud­get was avail­able, to date about $658,000 has been paid out to help 128 plant work­ers un­der the pro­gram.

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