Letter to the Editor: Proposed Ophir Creek Cost Report
At a meeting of Rossland City Council on Monday 29th September, Councillor Charlton proposed a motion that staff be directed to prepare a report on the costs of the Ophir Creek reservoir and associated projects. This motion was rejected by a 6 to 1 vote. So, what is it that Council (with the exception of Councillor Charlton) doesn’t want to know and by inference doesn’t want the people of Rossland to know about this project?
Those citizens who attended the public meeting held on January 26th 2005 to discuss the Ophir Creek project might recall that they left that meeting with the understanding that at the end of the project Rossland would have:
1. A new reservoir with a storage volume of 240,000 cubic metres
2. A rebuilt intake at Topping Creek
3. A rebuilt intake at Murphy Creek
We were told that the estimated cost of this work was $2.9 million excluding land costs, which were under negotiation at the time.
What we have today is an incomplete reservoir with no telemetry system, with a reduced capacity of 165,000 cubic metres; no rebuilt Topping Creek intake; and no rebuilt Murphy creek intake at a cost expected to be about $4.4 million including net land costs.
The method of managing this project used by past and present Rossland administrators and Councils is that whenever the cost looked as though it was going to exceed the budget, part of the scope of work was taken out of the project and deferred to a future date. This means that more money has to be raised in the future, (presumably by increased taxes, DCCs, government grants, or whatever), to do the deferred work.
This illusory method of managing the project was to make it appear that it was “on budget”. However, what is “delivered” is very different to what was planned, and citizens as the ultimate “owners” of the Ophir Creek project, will never know the real price tag without the report requested by Councillor Charlton.
The work deferred from the original project to avoid cost overruns includes a telemetry system, power supply and control building; a lower dam height (and reduced storage capacity); a rebuild of the Topping Creek intake; and a rebuild of the Murphy Creek intake.
When all this deferred work is taken into account, the total estimated cost is over $7 million. This is significantly higher than the $2.9 million when citizens gave their tacit approval to the project in 2005. This means that the amount paid by taxes will be significantly more than the $350,000 we were told in 2005 and could be several million dollars or more.
A councillor should not have to propose a motion for staff to prepare a cost report for a project. This should be a matter of routine for professional staff. The administrator said in a council meeting on June 23rd that he and the City engineer were putting together, in chronological order, a report on the whole development of Ophir and that it would be coming to Council. Presumably this has not yet been done which may be why Councillor Charlton made the recent motion requesting a cost report, with a deadline date for its completion. Unfortunately, the rejection of the motion sends a message to staff and the people of Rossland that Council is not interested and doesn’t want the people of Rossland to know how much this project is really costing them.
Without a report, the complete story of this project and its cost may never be made public and openly debated. The people of Rossland, including both citizens and developers, should demand that this be done to enable council, staff, developers and citizens alike to learn lessons from the project in order to avoid repeating mistakes on future projects.
After all, it’s our money!