Is the police headquarters project the new Urbacon?

By Gerry Barker

December 1, 1915

It does not surprise anyone that when the Farbridge council approved spending $34.1 million in August 2014 to renovate Guelph Police Headquarters, that it would actually cost more.

This week it was announced that the completion date has been moved to the winter or fall of 2018, a year later than planned. So the Guelph Police Services Board, (GPSB) overseeing this major project, received this information last September but waited two months to announce the delays.

Apparently, last year the board expressed concerns about exceeding the approved amount of $34.1 million and the consultant, KPMG, warned the overruns could exceed $5 million.

On December 9, the bids for completing the work must be tendered, four months later than originally planned.

The cause of this delay has been the redesigning of the original plans that were described by Deputy Chief Paul Martin as being “conceptual.”

So the plans that were chiefly sold to council by former Police Chief Bryan Larkin were “conceptual.” What was the basis of this concept? The GPSB hired consultants KPMG to develop a plan so that council would see how and where the money they were being asked to approve, was going.

In polite circles that might be described as being stupid and careless with the people’s money. And now it has taken a year to redesign the place.

This deception can be likened to General Motors announcing the retail price of a new concept car before the actual engineering and development costs are determined.

The question is who is in charge of this project? Is it the city planning and building staff? After all, the money is coming from the city. Or was it the GPSB and its officials? Whatever, the experience delivered by a superior court judge in the Urbacon lawsuit gives ample advice on controlling the project or failing to do so.

Is this project like the new city hall that managed to go over the original contract price by more that 50 per cent? The former mayor and Coun. Leanne Piper, the city representatives on the GPSB, were responsible for convincing council to underwrite the police headquarters renovation.

It now appears that the public was duped into believing that the price was right. As it turned out, most people were not fooled and defeated or forced out the mayor and a number of her council supporters.

But Piper was re-elected and is silent on her role in lowballing the anticipated real cost of the police headquarters renovation. Now it is revealed that the completion date has been moved up by a year.

Does this not have a familiar ring to it? Weren’t there more than 300 change orders issued during the new city hall construction that delayed completion? We now know that the general contractor was fired and it cost the city an additional $23 million because it lost the resulting lawsuit.

Because of a year of tinkering with the “conceptual plan” one has to wonder who has been paying for all this redesign work for the 13 months? Is it part of the original $34.1 million?

Because of the delay in requesting bids, that old devil inflation affects what the best-laid plans of Farbridge, Piper and Larkin who concocted to convince council to approve the project.

The consultant, whose warning that the project would cost $5 million more than the approved figure, was not revealed until this week. Right now, with the yearlong delay, the bids are going to surprise a lot of people. Would you believe more than $40 million?

In view of Guelph’s dreadful reputation of dealing with major construction projects, the bidders will build in a lot of insurance to protect their interests to avoid the shabby treatment the Urbacon Buildings Group Corp was forced to go through.

If she has any respect for the public’s interests, Leanne Piper should resign her position representing the city on the police board, and consider redemption for her role in the police headquarters project, the Urbacon affair and the Guelph Civic Museum cost overruns.

It’s the right thing to do.

What is the cost to citizens? The new City Hall, $23 million more than the contract price, Civic Museum, $4 million more than the contract price. The actual costs of the Police Headquarters renovation has yet to be determined and we won’t know until 2018, an election year.

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Is the police headquarters project the new Urbacon?

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Is the reno of the GPS building the next Guelph city supported SNAFU project? Are there any PMP certified project managers on staff and if so is he/she involved in the reno project? Have any engineering consulting / construction firms such as AECON, Ellis-Don, Stantec, or Hatch been involved in the management of the reno project or just KPMG management consultants? Did the previous chief have any background in building design and reno costing? With delays already being announced what is the possibility that the cost will escalate to the mid $40 million range? Also, what % of the police designated area of the Clair Road facility is actually occupied by police personnel? Why does KA-CHING seem to be the resounding theme of civic projects?

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: I only wish that you had been elected in Ward Six. There appears to be a paucity of business and professional experience on this council. It will be a tough job but perhaps some will see the light and stop wasting tne taxpayer’s money on more staff and projects that we don’t need.

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