A sewage lift station is probably the last thing on people’s minds, especially as the recent hot summer weather has brought back the return of the stench from the treatment plant.
For council, it will be on their mind after they learned at their Aug. 23 meeting that the cost of repairing the Wales Street lift station could be almost $200,000 more than budgeted.
Lift stations play an unsung role in any sewage system. They do what their name implies — they lift sewage up a hill so that it can continue flowing back down to the treatment plant.
The Wales Street lift station takes sewage from Farwell and Columbia Park and pumps it up the hill so it can continue it’s downward journey to the treatment plant in the industrial park.
A staff report by Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, says replacing it is a high priority and should be done within the next two years.
“This station is rapidly aging, uses older technology, has obsolete controls, is difficult and dangerous for operators to work in, and poses a potential environmental threat to the city,” he wrote in a report to council. “This lift station is a high priority from an asset management perspective; however one or two more years of operation in its current configuration are unlikely to be a major concern.”
The new lift station would have an increased capacity in order to handle new development in the area, would remove an overflow pipe that discharges into the Columbia River, would add a backup generator and would be safer for workers, Thomas’ report states.
Unfortunately, an early cost estimate by Stantec Consulting, the engineering firm contracted to design the replacement, pegs the cost of doing so at $785,000, including contingencies. That’s $185,000 more than the city budgeted.
To confuse the matter, Thomas’ report said the budgeted cost was $300,000. That figure is based on the 2015 financial plan, and it was revised to $600,000 in the 2016 financial plan. When asked about the discrepency, Thomas said he mistakenly referred to an older version of the financial plan when he wrote his report to council.
The 2016-20 financial plan budgets $80,000 for design work this year and $600,000 for construction next year. Stantec was awarded to the contract to design the new lift station in 2015.
Thomas explained the cost increase by saying the original budget came from simply looking at the cost of the individual pieces of equipment, and not at the cost of construction. He said the city is working on providing better construction cost estimates for future budgets.
Council was asked to vote on the project once more given the higher costs.
“The reason this is coming back is the increase in cost over the years from what we thought it would cost,” said councillor Gary Sulz, who chairs the city’s public works committee. “This is something we do have to process. This lift station is starting to wear out.”
Council voted to move forward on completing the design, with the goal of having it ready to go to tender for construction next summer. The city is also hoping to have a project “on the shelf” for when new infrastructure grant money is ponied up by the federal and provincial governments.
This is the second project the engineering department has under-budgeted in recent months. The roundabout contract went for $1.8 million — $600,000 more than the city budgeted for.
“It’s something we have to work on and do better as we develop our construction cost estimates,” said Thomas.