Town balks at rising auditorium costs

Construction on the auditorium hasn’t even started but the project already is estimated to come in at almost $800,000 more than town council approved.
And that has council prompted council to bring C.A. Ventin architect John Croker to its next regular meeting Aug. 10 to get some answers about the escalating costs.
The last figure council approved for its 12 percent portion of the “multi-use” project was $2.37 million. But CAO Bill Naturkach warned the latest figures the town received carry a $3.166 million price tag.
“I have a concern that these costs are escalating,” said Coun. Dave Bourgeault, noting the town had no idea where the money was going.
Coun. Bill Martin agreed, saying when the town first committed to the project, its portion was $1.5 million while the community auditorium committee was to kick in $500,000.
“There is, I think, a legitimate concern about the escalating prices,” he added.
“I think we have to have a look at this,” echoed Coun. Sharon Tibbs.
Naturkach said the $3.166-million price tag was based on figures that weren’t yet approved by the local public school board. But the figures should be definite by council’s Aug. 10 meeting.
At that meeting, Coun. Tibbs said the town should take a serious look at the dollar value and see if someone should be hired to watch out for its interests.
“I think it might be a little late for that,” Coun. Deane Cunningham admitted.
But John McLeod, acting director of education for the board, said yesterday if the town’s fee had gone up, he didn’t know why. He met with architects and the construction manager yesterday to get final figures on the project, which he said wouldn’t be revealed until they went to the board.
He added the crane operators, whose two-week strike caused some delays on the project, were slated to return to work today. But he also warned the electrical and mechanical people on site indicated further delays could increase costs of the project.
The school board, which is footing 79 percent of the total “multi-use” bill, has seen its portion of the project climb to $17.6 million from its original price of $13.6 million.
But McLeod noted the board also increased the scope of the project, which changed some of the numbers.
“What they tell us [Tuesday] will be the worst-case scenario,” he said. “[But] I don’t see our numbers now as being too out of line.”
In related news, council okayed $2.921 million for the auditorium project at its regular meeting Monday in order to get the $1.25-million Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. grant processed.
The Heritage Fund used a $2.5-million figure to calculate its contribution to the project. The town has spent about $800,000 on the project so far.
For his part, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said he didn’t want to see the town skimp on this project and end up pumping in more even more in the years ahead.
“I would like this council to go for a $2.921 [million] figure,” he added, saying he felt the project should be done right the first time.
But he was optimistic the town would be able to trim down if the figure got too high, noting the tenders have come in but that the town hasn’t committed to any yet.