Whitehorse Daily Star

Total school costs soar to $54 million

The Yukon government will likely tack on at least another $3.3 million to construction costs at the F.H. Collins Secondary School building site — already budgeted at $38.6 million — according to government documents.

By Christopher Reynolds on December 18, 2014

The Yukon government will likely tack on at least another $3.3 million to construction costs at the F.H. Collins Secondary School building site — already budgeted at $38.6 million — according to government documents.

A request for proposals sent out Wednesday by the Department of Highways and Public Works expects the planned upgrade to the school’s technical education wing will run the government more than $3.33 million, based on a cost estimate by Stantec, a design and consulting firm.

The department, however, has only allocated $3 million to the project.

“We’re not necessarily convinced that this government does a great job of staying on budget,” Liberal Leader Sandy Silver said in an interview today.

“It’s only based on our once-bitten, twice-shy experiences with this government.”

Silver was referring partly to the cabinet pegging the original design for the school reconstruction at $38.6 million in December 2012, despite the fact that a consultant projected the cost at $43.7 million.

The government decided in March 2013 to scrap the original design, which had already cost it more than $6 million, including initial pipe-digging, after the lowest bid came in almost $10 million over the officially approved $38.6 million.

Critics portrayed the incident as a case of the cabinet using an intentionally inaccurate figure to rationalize turning away local bids because they far exceeded a stated budget that was, in fact, virtually unattainable.

The Whitehorse-based EllisDon Corp. and Ketza Construction had put in the bid for $47.7 million.

Theirs was shunted aside in favour of one based on a school template crafted by an Alberta firm, an option freighted with further re-design costs like adding a cafeteria.

“We keep on hearing from the minister that this project is on time and on budget, and that is absolutely not true,” Silver said.

The 2014-15 capital budget puts the “building and facility development” cost of the F.H. Collins project at $51 million — not including the $3.3 million tech wing upgrade.

“The government knew that the tech and trades wing had to be upgraded, because the heat for the building comes from the existing F.H. Collins building, which will be torn down,” Silver said Wednesday in the legislature.

“When you take away a building’s heating source, replacing it is part of the cost of finishing a project.”

The single most expensive feature of the numerous retrofits is an onsite 800-kilowatt heating plant with propane-fired boilers, estimated at about $275,000.

That amount soars to nearly $550,000 when replacement of propane tanks and unit heaters as well as a new heating and ventilation control system are figured in.

“The trade wing is separate,” Highways and Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko told the house Wednesday.

“We are just compiling the numbers from working with the key stakeholders so we can move forward on doing upgrades to that.

“Regarding F.H. Collins, things are coming along great ... It’s an affordable design for a modern facility that meets LEED silver standard and our efficiency standards,” Istchenko added.

“Construction is well underway. I said that it is on track for a fall completion in 2015 — lots of Yukoners working.”

The request for proposals will close Jan. 14, 2015.

Comments (4)

Up 12 Down 1

Project Management - Wilf Carter on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:48 am

If there is a proper research design and construction estimates on the design, the construction estimates should be no more than 10% different than the actual cost of construction. Budgets for projects usually have an 10% cost factor build into the total cost for issues that are not foreseen.
The real issue is no one made a mistake but the Yukon is small and does not build many projects like the FH school so the Yukon Government staff don't have the experience in managing in these types of projects.
First in any design is to lay out the core requirements for the school. Second is to what are the key design requirements like energy, lighting, flow of the building. Third comes in the design as it relates to cost of construction. This is where things can get out whack on any project. Every time you add another corner to a building costs go up. Every time you make the ceiling higher it cost money. Outside core design and key items the design will determine costs.
I never have built a school but lots of other types of public buildings. In checking with PCL, schools are not cheap to build just like hospitals. I was involved with building two hospitals many years ago in Alberta and what they call in the industry the unforeseen items can drive costs up. I managed building court house in St Albert and we had to use piles. We put in the piles, came back the next week and they were gone because of quick sand 25 feet in the ground that we did not know was there. When Whitehorse Canadian Tire store was built, it sat on an old dump site and before they could build the store, all the material had to be removed and new brought in. I can't state the cost but it was a lot more money than they had estimated for. Sometimes you can get it right and other times you can't when building anything be public or private. The airport project came I believe very close to budget.

Up 19 Down 2

Tater on Dec 18, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Wait a minute, nobody expected this school to be built for the budgeted amount did they??

Up 42 Down 8

first class mess on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Just another mess by the Yukon Party that is leaderless. Who in the elected group has any experience in infrastructure planning or development? None.

Up 43 Down 6

Mark Southerland on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:31 pm

This is not a problem, just use some creative accounting.

Maybe some of the funding can come from secret accounts, support from the MV Golf Course which is now doing very well or it could be added onto development costs of Whistle Bend lots as an ongoing deficit that will be squared up when unsold lots are sold.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.