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Pier project pondered by council as cash crunches visions of a canopy

LadyBird display, event under canopy and farmer’s market — architect’s drawing.

The love for the city’s waterfront Hall Street Pier project is expected to be shown in a regular council meeting on Valentine’s Day.

City council is expected to hear back from city staff during the meeting on how it can afford continuing with the project and the $860,000 needed to finish it as planned with a canopy.

There had been some debate on how to finish the project — that began last year — during a Feb. 3 special council meeting on the budget. The costly canopy has not been approved for the coming budget that council was still deliberating on.

Coun. Rik Logtenberg felt the final feature for the pier was fitting, but he balked at the price tag to get it done, as well as pushing the completion project from 2024 to this year.

“I like the design, but when I weigh that against every party, I don’t know yet if I am supportive.

Caution, a bit, but I am hearing on the urgency and the vision,” he said in the meeting.

Delaying the canopy completion until 2024 or scrapping it altogether and calling the pier project complete wasn’t a best use of municipal money, said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“At the end of the day we are trying to deliver the best value to the community,” he said. “We may not be doing that if we change course, though … The canopy was a very important part of this vision.”

City director of Engineering, Capital Works and Special Projects, Colin Innes, said the number quoted to council on Feb. 3 had maybe a two-week window before it changed again in the volatile market. And holding off to 2024 would create an entirely different project based on new costs that would have to be re-quoted.

The comment prompted Mayor Janice Morrison to question if there were reserve funds somewhere in the city coffers to cover the current quoted cost of the project.

City chief financial officer Chris Jury said city staff could take a look at how the corporation could cover it.

“I mean, there are always reserves there, it is just a case of priorities and how much we want to go into them,” he said.

“There are some comparisons to make between doing it now and bringing that back in a year and what the cost difference is. So I think we can provide a bit more information and a couple of scenarios on what it would be if we funded it ourselves or delayed a year and looked for some grants.”

Morrison was leaning toward finding the money and seeing the project through.

“I am of the mind that we started this project, and I like to see projects finished,” she said. “At this point, I personally feel that we need to get this project completed so that we can get on with the other really important projects that we have coming.

“Even if this price stayed exactly the same, and it was in 2024, the same question is, ‘Where are we getting the money?’ unless we decide that this project is finished, which is a decision that could be made.”

She said council needed to decide soon if it wanted to finish the pier project with the canopy or to cut bait and call the project in its current state completed.

“You can’t start these things and then tell everybody to go home and come back in a year. It is a cautionary tale, in my mind,” she said. “If we think this project is over, then we will have that motion in front of us at the next council meeting. But if we think this project is not over, the only decision we have to make is how are we going to fund it.”

Between the community works fund and capital reserve, Jury felt the city could make the project work.

A motion to refer the decision about the completion of the Hall Street Pier project to Feb. 14 (Tuesday) was passed in council, and would include a discussion of how it would be funded if it was to go ahead.

Critical mass

The canopy is a critical part of the Hall Street Pier project said architect Matt Stanley of Stanley Office of Architecture (SOA) when he presented the project to council on Feb. 3.

It is critical to the overall success and the successful completion of the project, he explained, and it is the gesture that will draw people to this area.

“It is the landmark that will connect Baker Street and Hall Street down to the waterfront; it has that scale and that ability to connect to draw people to the area,” he said.

The canopy and the pier project have been something that has been in city planning documents and policies for many years, including the Sustainable Waterfront Plan and Downtown Master Plan.

“It is a place where people can connect to the water by the swimming area, and the floating docks and the pier itself,” Stanley continued. “It is a place where people can connect to our history, our heritage and our culture.

“And where that is happening is the canopy. The canopy is the event space, the sheltering space and it is that iconic landmark that is drawing people to the area.”

The pier area — called a critical mass of public amenity by Stanley — has the foundation in place right now and is ready to receive the canopy if it was ready (and approved) to put in.

Cost cutting

By deferring scopes of the project to a later time, one of the primary risks is price certainty, said Stanley when he spoke to council on Feb. 3.

“Right now we have price certainty on all of the major components of the work,” he stated. “If we defer that to 2024, we no longer have that price certainty. People’s prices are no longer valid and the parts of that project have to go out and be re-tendered.”

And so, by deferring parts of the scope of the work of the canopy to 2024, the project is opened up to the risk of price escalation and price uncertainty.

If the city was ready to issue purchase orders for the major scopes of work — the steel and the cladding — the project would be ready to finish right now, said Stanley.

But shutting the project down for a year — demobilizing — would affect not only the trades on site, said Innes, but the entire project team, which includes consultants.

“When you defer parts of the project to another year we have a de-mobilization process that is necessary and a re-mobilization process that is needed,” he said. “And that has real, tangible effects on the cost and timeline of a project. It does have a real effect on the overall costs of these things when we defer the scope of the work to another year.”

Overbudget costs

In October, 2022 rising costs and material delays combined to push the Pier project to potentially five per cent over budget.

Innes told city council at the time that the $4.2-million project — which includes all scope elements, including the completion of the canopy — will likely come in $185,000 over budget.

“Although the project won’t be over budget for this year, for the full scope of the project there will have to be some additional funding put in there,” he said in his report to council in October.

“However, as the project team continues to work to address cost pressures, the ultimate cost pressure will continue to be revised.”

The city might have to look at some options like not delivering part of the project scope, Innes explained.

“And the most obvious piece of that is the canopy; we could offset some of the costs to help contain that and then look for future funding in order to do that,” he said.

The construction of the canopy would then turn into a phase two, he added.

As the project progressed there have been approximately $500,000 worth of project cost challenges that have been successfully mitigated with approximately $340,000 of project savings, Innes pointed out.

“However, there continue to be cost pressures that are keeping pressure on the project budget,” he said, including material delivery delays, up to several weeks in some cases.

That means a project originally slated for completion at the end of November, 2022 will be delayed.

“This project has been interesting because we have really hit a period of inflationary pressure that has caused things to move considerably from costs from estimators to where we’ve wound up,” Innes related. “I’ve never seen this kind of dynamic movement in this kind of thing before. It’s quite pronounced. The more you are extending a project out, there’s more costs you are incurring on site with the project.”

Source: The Nelson Daily, October, 2022

Further trouble

After the demo of the existing pier and the install of the piles started, it was identified that ground conditions would require bottom plates to be added and pile depths to be increased, in order to achieve the skin friction that was required to support the new structure.

This change was estimated as $141,000, said Innes.

“Due to this change resulting in a negative contingency balance, it was decided that any additional challenges to the budget in 2022 would be offset by the $360,000 that was budgeted for a canopy,” he said.

The design team was tasked with redesigning the canopy structure in an attempt to reduce the canopy cost.

“The reduced scale of the canopy is believed to be more compatible with the reduced pier size, while still maintaining the original architectural intent and gesture,” said Innes.

Source: The Nelson Daily, October, 2022