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LETTER: Sidney council should pump brakes on roundabout commitment

In the Sept. 8 PNR Richard Novek expressed disappointment that North Saanich council voted to limit their commitment to the Galoran roundabout project. It is true that in an inflationary world, post-COVID or otherwise, construction projects can see price fluctuations.

I recommend reading the staff report to Sidney council of June 16, 2020 on the Community Safety Building (CSB) project. The original budget of $10 million ended in a final project cost of $16.84 million. There were many ‘fluctuations’ including positive contributions from BC Ambulance and CREST as well as a windfall for the then council of $5 million from the sale of the old firehall.

In the end the town, actually taxpayers, borrowed only $6 million and not $6.3 million. It was a wild financial ride and the staff made an excellent recommendation in that report. “The next time we build a large structure, the site should be secured, the project fully designed, and all necessary agreements in place prior to going out to tender. And if the market is not favourable, delay the project.”

Those criteria are not met when considering the proposed roundabout and there is no absolute time pressure to build it. With Amazon about to open it will be a ‘nice to have’ but in these comparably unpredictable times for costs and interest rates I applaud North Saanich for not offering a blank cheque on taxpayers’ behalf.

The positive contributions that rescued the CSB project are not on the horizon. Conditions have changed since Sidney council committed and I encourage them to think carefully. I believe they should adopt an exposure limit and involve the public in the borrowing decision, something the then council did not do for the CSB project.

I believe Mr. Novek is running to be a member of the next Sidney council, the one that will make the final decision on financing this project. I would ask him to learn from the history of the council prior to the current one. We do not “expect the pace of development to continue” at any price.

David Calveley