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Bowen service yard decision headed for further review

Council opts to reconsider funding approval made last week; will look for temporary worker safety fix
The public works service yard located behind the Mount Gardner Road gas station.

The municipality will take some more time to decide how to proceed with the situation at the public works service yard.

A special council meeting was held on Monday morning after Mayor Andrew Leonard said he wasn’t fully comfortable with the decision reached during last week’s meeting, where members approved $190,000 to perform design and environmental assessments on the Carter Road site. This came following a report from director of engineering Patrick Graham outlying several hazards at the site – including mold, arsenic, and a rat infestation – that can be harmful to workers and the environment.

“I think that the unanimous vote at our meeting last Monday night speaks to an urgent and immediate need to take care of our public works staff. Our director of engineering, in addition to the stark images he presented to us of the utter disrepair and decay of the works yard, states in the conclusion of his report that BIM has a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for municipal employees that enable them to deliver the best value service to the public,” said Leonard.

The mayor visited the site last week and concurred with the situation outlined in the report, though he did note the professionalism of the public works staff in spite of their unsatisfactory working conditions.

Graham’s presentation also came with plans for an upgraded facility with proper amenities for both public works staff and their equipment and vehicles. Total costs were estimated around $4 million, and it’s this part Leonard felt needed more discussion – provided the current safety needs of workers can be met in the meantime.

“If the short-term solution is addressed immediately through temporary crew space, this removes the emergency thinking that led council to approve a $4 million capital project without the oversight of our finance committee, and that’s extracurricular to our budget process,” said the mayor.

A new motion from Leonard directed staff to investigate options for crews to base themselves while a decision is made on the future of the service yard. This could be a temporary structure such as a trailer, which would be needed in the future anyway during the several months between demolition of the current building and construction of the new building.

These interim options will be heard at the Feb. 27 council meeting. Graham expressed some concern the change of plans – sending the design and environmental requests for further deliberation – could delay the end product.

“The process that we’ve gone through was to look at the program and space requirements, and to work with the design consultant team on the various site and building configurations to provide that space… How that building is delivered – whether it’s a purpose built structure… or if it’s delivered as a pre-fabricated or modular type construction – those are construction methods and details that could come out through the remaining detailed design process,” said Graham.

“That was the intention of requesting the $190,000 right away,” he added, noting whatever decision is reached the final request would still need to go through the usual budget process.

Council voted 6-1 to accept Leonard’s reconsideration, with Coun. Sue Ellen Fast in dissent.

“I think this project is really important. I think staff can bring us the cost savings… I’m concerned that this motion could delay things,” said Fast.

Further financial discussions about fixes to the service yard, along with any necessary work at the Salal Road public works site, will now be held during this year’s budget process. The Finance Advisory Committee will also review the project’s plans.