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News archive for December 5, 2013

Lack of independent cost estimate order explained

The Yukon government did not order an independent estimate for the new F.H. Collins Secondary replacement school because one was provided by its bridging consultant.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on December 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star


The Yukon government did not order an independent estimate for the new F.H. Collins Secondary replacement school because one was provided by its bridging consultant.

Doris Wurfbaum, a spokesperson for the Department of Highways and Public Works, explained this morning that Barr Ryder, an Alberta-based architectural firm, provided an order of magnitude estimate to the department.

The estimate is well within the government’s set budget of $38.6 million for the school replacement, Wurfbaum said.

Barr Ryder’s estimate is based on the company’s experience and data from similar projects built in the past. The company was the original architect for the Alberta school the new F.H. Collins design is based on.

The Yukon government hired the company as a bridging consultant to work with the government and the successful contractor to build the school.

Last July, Cynthia Tucker, the assistant deputy minister of property management with Highways and Public Works, explained that the bridging consultant “takes what we want to achieve and translates that into language that the construction industry and the architectural industry can interpret to build the project that we want.”

Wurfbaum would not release the details of Barr Ryder’s estimate, saying it could compromise the tendering process.

“If details of estimates become public during the tender period, this could influence the government’s ability to receive best possible pricing on tenders,” she said, adding it could be made public after the tender is awarded.

The NDP questioned whether the government had ordered an independent estimate multiple times this week in the house, but the government refused to provide the answers offered by the department this morning.

The NDP took the government’s silence to mean it had not ordered an independent estimate – even though it ordered three for the original school design.

“The premier has said repeatedly in this house that independent estimates are an important tool in ensuring fiscal responsibility,” Lois Moorcroft, the NDP’s Highways and Public Works critic, noted Tuesday during question period.

On Wednesday, after the government refused to provide a decisive answer to Moorcroft’s questions the day before, the MLA said “the refusal to answer can only mean that, after boasting about fiscal responsibility and how important independent professional estimates are, they did not bother to get one.”

In 2009, the Alberta government built the school the new F.H. Collins is based on for $21 million.

When the Yukon government unveiled the imported design last May, Highways and Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko said the school was expected to cost more to build in the territory given the different environment – but was expected to come in under the $38.6-million budget.

Premier Darrell Pasloski said this week the government’s budget for the project remains at $38.6 million.

“The new design for F.H. Collins is a totally different design – one that is 2,500 square metres smaller than last year’s design,” NDP Leader Liz Hanson said Monday in the house.

“How is budgeting the same amount of money for a completely new, smaller school design – as the premier said, sole-sourced directly from Alberta – a fiscally responsible use of taxpayers’ money?” she asked.

Pasloski noted the government is currently out to tender on the new project.

He said that tender had been extended by almost a month at the request of local contractors.

He did not explain how the government came to the decision to keep its original budget.

The government announced last March it was scrapping the original F.H. Collins design because it came in too far over-budget, opting instead for the pre-designed model out of Alberta.

The school is expected to be completed in the 2015/2016 school year, replacing the current 50-year-old structure.

CommentsAdd a comment


Dec 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

This has been a fiasco from the beginning, right from the ground breaking ceremony of 2011. It’s going to be interesting watching this disaster of a project unfold like so many other YTG projects of this Yukon party government. Over budget? Of course, on time? Never!

Rock Star

Dec 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm

So….same amount of money, but a smaller school DESIGNED for LESS students.  To be built far from the tech section of the school, and farther from the teen parent center and the dorm.  How is this a good thing?

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