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LETTER: Costs a concern for Saanich Operations Centre redevelopment

It’s an extremely challenging time for the long-delayed and now more costly plan to redevelop the Saanich Operations Centre.

Projects everywhere, especially megaprojects, are facing shocking budget pressures as prices escalate for construction materials and labour. Consider that taxpayers got a rude surprise recently after learning the Keating flyover price jumped 73 per cent in a couple of years.

In March the public was given initial estimates of $182 million to $212 million to redevelop the Saanich Operations Yard.

Then at the June 13 council meeting, a truckload of documents was tabled including a business case and Class D cost estimates. Three options were presented ranging from $183 million to $239 million to $265 million, and that doesn’t include the cost of borrowing and eventual impact on property taxes.

Each option depends on the scope of the project, parking, tower height, degree of environmental sustainability, and so on. But the wild card is whether or not there’s private-sector involvement for commercial and housing components.

Estimated costs were developed in January 2022 dollars and escalated for a projected construction start of July 2026. While including a premium for environmental sustainability, COVID-19, construction costs, design changes, it doesn’t detail assumptions on inflation.

Council hopes to develop an advanced feasibility proposal and then ask for elector approval to borrow money in a couple years.

So taxpayers should be asking questions about the most expensive municipal infrastructure project in the history of the South Island. Could costs be (or have been) reduced with co-operation across 13 municipalities? What are the risks if commercial and housing components are added?

Stan Bartlett, vice-chair

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria