The Telegram (St. John's)
Firefighting training facility comes in way over budget
Corner Brook city council not happy after learning of $76,740.74 extra cost for project
CORNER BROOK — The City of Corner Brook’s new firefighter training facility has been completed, but a cost overrun of $76,740.74 is not sitting well with members of council.
In 2018 the city chaired a meeting of the Western Regional Fire Training Ground Committee to research the possibility of putting a facility in place for fire departments on the west coast of Newfoundland to train at.
When that plan didn’t go anywhere the city, still seeing a benefit to being able to train its members locally, took on the project on its own.
Last October council approved construction of the facility using seven shipping containers.
The original budget to construct the facility was $50,000, but as presented in an information report during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday the project’s actual cost came in at $126,740.74.
The overrun will have an impact on the current expenditures of the Corner Brook Fire Department as it assumes the extra cost.
To do that the department will further decrease its budget over the next five years, offer the facility to neighbouring fire departments for a fee and apply those fees to the cost, offer the facility to the provincial Fire Training School for a negotiated fee and provide training using this facility to other city employees, thereby reducing their departmental cost for SCBA/ Hazmat training.
In the discussion that followed, councillors wanted to know what the design process was for the project and how the overrun happened in the first place. They also expressed displeasure with the timing.
“This should have been brought back to council long before tonight,” said Coun. Vaughn Granter.
It was up to Todd Flynn, the director of protective services, to answer most of the questions, as the information report points to errors made by him over the course of the project.
Flynn said the initial concept design was completed by city staff before it was handed over to Anderson Engineering for the engineering work. It was then that it became clear changes would be needed.
“It actually came out about a month in on the project, three weeks in, when the conceptual design was actually translated to an actual engineering design,” he said.
In terms of offering use of the facility to other departments, Flynn said they would look to amortizing the cost over the life of the project. With a lifespan of 10-15 years, it would work out to about $10,000 a year. Other departments charge about $2,500 a year to use their training facilities, and the city would charge somewhere around that, Flynn said. It would not cost the city anything to offer the training, he said.
“Each fire department that would come use the facility would use their own gear. They’d want to use their own gear, so they train in their own gear.”
Offering training by the city fire department is an option, he said.
“If they are going to avail of that, obviously we would offer that at a cost.”
As for maintenance of the facility, Flynn said it will have to be checked by an engineer, but he doesn’t expect that to come with much cost.
“It’s a pretty hardy, rough construction.”
Even with the answers to their questions, it was clear council was not happy to learn of the overrun after the project had been completed.
“There’s not much we can do about this now because we have it, and it’s done and we have to pay people," Deputy Mayor Bill Griffin said.
That prompted Mayor Jim Parsons to say it’s not a matter of paying for it.
“It’s a matter of how we budget, really,” he said.
While there’s no going back, Griffin said there is a lesson to be learned.
“This is not the way to do business, I don’t think.”
With the size of the overrun, Coun. Josh Carey suggested council needed to make a motion to approve the overrun, and it was passed.