Cornwall public works buildings will run $8.7M over budget

A diagram by consultant J.L. Richards for a Cornwall City Council meeting on Monday, April 11, 2022 shows the proposed administation building and garage for the public works yard on Ontario Street. Updated numbers show the two buildings will run almost $9 million over budget. (City of Cornwall via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – Cornwall will go ahead with designing two major components of its municipal works yard, even though that part of the project is expected to go nearly $9 million over budget.

City council saw the early designs for the administration building and multi-use garage for the $32 million multi-year Ontario Street redevelopment plan – an exercise that started in 2016.

Consultant J.L. Richards expects the administration office and garage to cost $25.3 million to build instead of the $16.6 million budgeted – an $8.7 million overrun. That estimate could go 15 per cent either way.

Spokesman Lucas Busch acknowledged it was a “significant increase” brought on by a number of factors including inflation, building costs that are outrunning the rate of inflation and budgeting by the city that wasn’t accurate because it was calculated on area and not design elements.

Some councillors flat out did not support going ahead and wanted a review while others held their nose believing the cost will never go down and the city would save money on maintenance costs of old buildings.

“It’s concerning to me. I think that we need to stop and maybe take a look and find a different way forward. I do believe this project needs to be completed but it also needs to be fiscally attainable and right now with the cost overruns, I’m not sure that it is,” Coun. Justin Towndale said before voting not to proceed.

Towndale has raised concerns in the past about the cost of the project and even bought it to the audit committee for review, which resulted in quarterly reports to council.

Coun. Dean Hollingsworth said it “really pains me” to support it but – believing the true cost will be $11 or $12 million over budget – putting it off would be futile because the “they (the costs) will never go down.”

The councillors who voted not to proceed were Justin Towndale, Denis Carr and Eric Bergeron. Mayor Glen Grant and the rest of council, with the exception of Syd Gardiner who was not there, voted to go ahead with the design.

Staff estimate the design for the buildings will take four to six months with tendering this winter and construction starting in early 2023.

The city is already planning on take out a loan – likely over 20 years – for the construction.