Metro Vancouver pours another $220,000,000 tax dollars down the drain for Capilano-Seymour filtration project
Friday afternoons are traditionally the day politicians dole out bad news. That's because it's the day of the week most likely to see your bad news "buried" in the middle of the Saturday paper. Perhaps that could explain the timing of yesterday's news release by Metro Vancouver regarding the financially disastrous water filtration plant project which is now at least $220 million over budget.
We reported here earlier the water filtration project was going to be massively overbudget, and behind schedule. Unlike so many other projects in the Vancouver area however, it appears the previously ballooning construction costs played less of a role in the failure of this project. Moreover, a lack of political oversight and poor decision-making seem to be at this heart of this one.
There are many that believe this water filtration plant is not even necessary, and a colossal waste of money given how pure Vancouver's water is already. I'm one of them. My view is not shared by the Chair of the Metro Vancouver Water Committee, Vision Vancouver Councillor Tim Stevenson. He remains a huge proponent of this project having even conducted personal tours of the facility before the tunnel project was halted. The tours were something akin to a proud papa showing off his newborn.
So how is it that a project that some critics say isn't needed goes over budget by $220 million dollars and barely registers any attention in the media? Well, Councillor Stevenson is no fool, and he understands the power of a Friday afternoon release about some little ol' water plant on the North Shore.
Here is a copy of the news release issued by Metro Vancouver yesterday:
February 27, 2009
ADDITIONAL FUNDING APPROVED TO IMPROVE DRINKING WATER QUALITY
Additional funding of $220 million to complete the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Project was approved today by Metro Vancouver’s Board of Directors.
The majority of the funding – $200 million – is needed to complete work on twin tunnels that will take Capilano Reservoir water to a new water filtration plant in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and return treated water to the Capilano source.
The balance – $20 million – will pay for increases in construction and engineering costs for the remaining components of the project, as well as increases in the cost of energy recovery equipment at Capilano.
Initially budgeted in 2003 at $600 million, the total cost for the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Project, including the tunnels, is now anticipated to be $820 million.
Metro Vancouver has filed a lawsuit against former tunnels contractor Bilfinger Berger Canada to recover the additional costs of completing the tunnels.
So where is the accountability on this project? Why is no one calling for Chair Lois Jackson or Councillor Tim Stevenson to step down from their Metro Vancouver paid positions? Why is there no inquiry into how the politicians and staff handled the tendering of this original contract? Simply put, no one seems to care in this new era of shoveling money out the door for 'shovel-ready' projects.
Could voter apathy also be fueled by the fact our representatives on Metro Vancouver's Board are not directly elected by the residents of Metro Vancouver? Board directors are appointed to Metro Vancouver by their local councils.
Did the Fast Ferries project in BC so collectively dull our senses that we no longer even blink an eye when a government project announces it's $220,000,000 tax dollars over budget?
Distributing this "bad news" release out on a Friday afternoon is yet another example of the type of arrogance and contempt for Metro Vancouver residents that we've come to expect from Chair Jackson and her colleague Tim Stevenson. We at CityCaucus.com believe there are 220 million reasons why we should keep on top of this story over the coming months. And we will.