The $300,000 project to upgrade the walkway along Okanagan Lake west of the Peach concession stand is not quite dead, however, it is not breathing very well either, according to Penticton’s mayor.
With the project’s main advancer Coun. Mike Pearce not in attendance, Penticton council voted 4-2 Monday to reject awarding a construction contract to Sierra Landscaping for $187,712, thus putting it on hold for 30 days, after which point the bid will be cancelled.
The project was originally approved 5-2 by council at a cost of $300,000. However, citing concerns such as the project’s likelihood to exceed its budget, Councillors Garry Litke and Judy Sentes joined John Vassilaki and Dan Albas in voting against the walkway.
Litke said the tender for the project is problematic to him because it includes extra optional work, such as decorative guard-railing at $131,316, and because it has a relatively low contingency fund at $8,000.
“Only $8,000 in contingency for a project of this size doesn’t seem adequate and will probably necessitate a budget amendment at some time,” he said.
Furthermore, Litke questioned whether the project was something the city needs done this year.
“We have a capital project going on down the street that is unfinished. So before we go ahead and start another capital project, I would like to see the one that is currently nearing completion get finished and that the outstanding issues be resolved,” Litke said, referring to the almost renovated $23.3 million Penticton Community Centre and pool.
“Right now council is considering a couple of ideas to save money on the pool project like delaying the opening for three or four months or privatizing the operation to save a couple of hundred thousand dollars, which may or may not be the case.
“I would rather spend the ($300,000) on the people who are waiting to use that facility (and) the people who are waiting to get their jobs back rather than spend the money on paving.”
Mayor Dan Ashton said Litke was mixing up capital project apples and oranges.
“How do you anticipate taking money from the lakefront and putting it into the pool for something that is on-time and on-budget?” responded Ashton.
However, Litke’s comments were quite popular with both the crowd of CUPE workers and their supporters at the meeting, as well as with Vassilaki.
“I would like to thank Coun. Litke for waking up and smelling the coffee,” Vassilaki said. “Coun. Albas and I have been saying (that) for the last three months. I am glad he finally saw the light of day.”
Albas said the project has merit but that it should be postponed until the city is in a better financial situation, perhaps also making time for a non-profit or service group to come forward with funding.
Ashton said before declaring the project dead, he will initiate an in-camera discussion with council regarding the need to do some work on the walkway to mitigate tripping hazards created by outgrown roots and sidewalk decay.
“This will be a discussion for another day,” he said. “In-camera I will show you some insurance issues that we are faced with and we will take it from there.”