Sackville councillors award $1.9 million flood control contract, but Phinney votes no

Councillor Bruce Phinney

The final tally was 5-1 as a majority of   Sackville councillors voted Monday night to award a contract worth $1,985,499.58 to Birch Hill Construction Ltd. of Moncton.

Birch Hill was the lowest of six bidders on a project to construct a 40,000 cubic metre storm water retention pond with pedestrian walkways around it in a downtown marshy area south of St. James Street and east of Lorne.

The contract also calls for construction of a smaller pond near the foot of Dufferin Street with ditches leading to pipes and culverts under the CN Rail line and Crescent Street to connect with a ditch owned by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastucture (DTI) near the old railway station.

That ditch would carry storm water out past the Armtec plant to an old DTI aboiteau and then into the Tantramar River at low tide.

To see an engineer’s drawing of the new retention ponds, ditches, culverts and walking trails between Lorne and St. James Streets, click here.

Phinney says no

“I’m going to be frank and blunt,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney as he served notice he would vote against awarding the contract.

“I don’t have any faith in Crandall Engineering anymore,” Phinney said, referring to the Moncton-based consulting firm that designed the project.

“I’m sorry, they just seem to be winging it,” he added. “I really feel that it’s the wrong way to go. I think we need to stop it now.”

Crandall originally designed a project with two large retention ponds that would release storm water through a series of ditches and culverts in the industrial park to a new aboiteau at the river beside one of the town’s sewage lagoons.

But bids for the project came in at $5.9 million, double the $2.9 million all three levels of government had allocated for it forcing the engineering firm to scale the project back.

More ponds needed

Phinney stressed the fact that for flood control to work properly during especially heavy rainstorms, engineers say the town would need to contain at least 100,000 cubic metres of water.

The town does have tentative plans to spend about $350,000 constructing an additional 22,000 cubic metre retention pond in the old quarry above Salem Street.

But Phinney says that if the town buys the quarry from Mount Allison University, it would be taking on a huge potential liability if someone gets injured or killed there.

He also points out that even with a quarry retention pond, the town would be able to contain only 62,000 cubic metres, well short of what’s needed.

“How much more money are we going to have to spend to hopefully get up to a hundred thousand cubic metres?” Phinney asked. “This seems to be a never-ending pot of money somewhere, I don’t know where it’s coming from, but we’ll certainly be putting it on the backs of the taxpayers.”

Town priority

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans spoke strongly in favour of approving the $1.9 million contract for the latest phase of the flood control project.

“I think it was two years ago at our priority session, we determined that flood mitigation was our number one priority,” Evans said.

He added that since then, the town had gone ahead with the successful $5.4 million first phase of the Lorne Street project before running into the higher-than-expected bids for the second phase.

“The proposal that we have is very impressive as far as I’m concerned,” Evans said. “We are doing the best that we can afford to do and we are also doing it in such a way that if we do get extra funding, we’ll be able to add to this project with minimal undoing.”

Evans argued that even though this latest project falls short of the 100,000 cubic metre goal, being able to contain about two-thirds of the water is a good thing.

“The alternative would be to say no to the money [from the others levels of government] and not do anything,” Evans  said. “I’m almost speechless considering that alternative.”

Councillor Michael Tower agreed.

“As Councillor Evans said, if we didn’t do something, we’re going to be in a mess, [a] bigger mess if we did what Councillor Phinney wants us to do,” Tower said.

Legal requirements

Later during the question period, Mayor Higham warned that climate modelling experts predict that the town would need to contain up to 200,000 cubic metres during a one-in-one-hundred year rainstorm which could come anytime.

“That amount of water will create a flow out of, at the bottom of Lorne Street, of 11 cubic metres a second,” the mayor said. “In order to get that out, you’d have to build a railway bridge for the CN tracks for it [the water] to flow under.”

Mayor Higham added that the town is legally obliged to work toward that one-in-one-hundred-year industry standard and that’s why it’s hoping to get more money from the provincial and federal governments to build a flood control system that would contain storm water until it could flow to a new aboiteau at the river near one of the sewage lagoons as originally planned.

To read earlier stories about the need for large, storm water retention ponds, click here.

To listen to my question about a future phase of the Lorne Street project and Mayor Higham’s answer, click on the media player below.

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4 Responses to Sackville councillors award $1.9 million flood control contract, but Phinney votes no

  1. Percy Best says:

    Wow, they really don’t seem to understand that if you have water flowing into a kitchen sink then all you have to do is take the sink stopper out. This is NOT being done. What they are doing is buying a lot of multi million dollar pots and pans to store the water in.

    I find it quite unbelievable that they are unable to work directly with the NB Department of Transportation and Infrastructure engineers and do as they have recommended to some of the public. Just dig out the ditch in back of Armtec and enhance it, alongside the dike, all the way down to Carter’s Brook, about a half a km downstream from where the current Rte 935 causeway/aboiteau is being rebuilt. A new aboiteau’s flapper would only be closed for approximately four hours, twice a day, and other than that the storm water flow would be unrestricted and steady. The new ditch would have way more than enough capacity to handle the four hour back up. There is NO need for any additional retention or detention ponds.

    DTI’s approach is so simple and so darned inexpensive. Of course Crandall Engineering would not make their fortune in ‘consulting’ fees. They are in business to make money for themselves and the more convoluted and expensive they can make this rather easy fix then the more money they make. That is the ‘name of the game’ in business today. Just their ‘consulting’ fees alone for Phase II are over half a million dollars — so far. The whole solution to the Lorne Street flooding situation could be simply rectified for less than the consulting amount that Crandall is billing our Town. That stands at over half a million dollars just for the paperwork involved in this current mess. I find it difficult to accept the seeming fiscal irresponsibility.

  2. Rima Azar says:

    It is sadly easier for some to waste the money of others. Would they have done the same had it been their own? Likely not. So why should our public funds go down the drain like that?

  3. Its just embarrassing and sad to watch how little common sense exists on that panel of people… at least Bruce Phinney spoke up for the taxpayers… on two things that matter: regional service commission expense growing and pond project for technocrats who love wetlands not humans… it could only really happen in a town obsessed with being greener and even more sustainable for a population that doesn’t ever seem to increase [wouldn’t wonder why after living here over 8 yrs]

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