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$27.9-million contract for Algonquin roadwork moving ahead

Councillor raises concerns about locking into three-year project, amount of longterm debt the city's incurring
2021-08-21 connecting link mh
Last yea's work on the Connecting Link took place on Algonquin Boulevard from the Mattagami bridge to Theriault Boulevard.

A three-year contract to rebuild a downtown section of Algonquin Boulevard will cost $27.9 million. 

R.M. Belanger Ltd. was awarded the contract at a special Timmins council meeting last night (April 8). The work includes fully reconstructing the water, sanitary and storm infrastructure, new curbs and sidewalks, and new asphalt and light standards.

“By signing a three-year contract, the city is able to benefit from cost savings by confirming future work,” said Pat Seguin, director of growth and infrastructure, in a news release. “Within the budget are contingency funds, which will allow for variances. If the cost of asphalt or fuel rises, we have allowed for that within the project costs. Moving forward, we will budget accordingly to match tender values in the subsequent two years of the project.”

Last year, the city revised its approach for reconstructing the Connecting Link to move up work on the downtown sections. The price tag for the project at the November 2021 meeting was $25.9 million.

This year,  Algonquin Boulevard will be redone from Theriault to Mountjoy. The cost of this section of work is $8.9 million, which is $982,875 more than what's budgeted.

In 2023, the focus will be Mountjoy Street to Cedar — a project that will include installing a new snowmobile crossing near Hollinger Park. The cost is $8.9 million.

At $10.1 million, the final phase is the most expensive. It covers Cedar Street to west of Brunette Road and includes removing the overpass. 

The city is applying for provincial funding to help with the cost. The maximum funding available from the Connecting Link fund is $3 million per year or $5 million for work that involves bridges. The city typically gets Connecting Link funding every two years.

The shortfall for this year's portion will be covered by $400,000 through the Northern Ontario Resource Development fund. If the city doesn't receive Connecting Link cash, the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, federal gas tax reserve or debt financing are options to help cover the capital cost, according to the staff report.

Seguin told council there are also opportunities to cancel other projects while committing to the Connecting Link work.

Coun. Joe Campbell was opposed to locking into a three-year term. 

“I’m reluctant to commit that amount of money for three years for the simple reason that circumstances could change for the next council with respect to the finances of the city,” he said. 

Two tenders were received for the project, with the other one being from Timmins' Northec Construction for $29.9 million.

Campbell said in future years, the other segments could see more bidders and better deals for the city. 

With no guaranteed funding stream for the work, Cambell also questioned the amount of long-term debt the city's incurring as it's also taking out a 25-year debenture to redevelop the Golden Manor. That project's an estimated $80.5 million.

Deputy treasurer Greg Paquette said the longterm financial plan factored in some debentures for the Connecting Link.

“We didn’t see any issues with it in that projection, but it does have an impact on future tax levies,” he said.

Campbell admitted he's adverse to debt — personal or otherwise — and noted over the term of the manor debenture the city will be paying over $20 million in interest. If other items are debentured, he's worried about the interest payments and said that cash could be spent in other ways to improve the city.

“I don’t think that there’s any use in trying to hide it from the next council that this work does have to get done eventually so I’m glad that we are looking at taking more of a strategic approach in terms of looking at a three-year contract in hopes of gaining some cost savings there,” said Coun. Michelle Boileau, who was chairing the meeting as Mayor George Pirie was absent due to a family emergency.

In Timmins, the Connecting Link is a 21.35-kilometre stretch of Highway 101 running from Kamiskotia Road in the west to the old railway tracks in Porcupine.

The initial plan for the roadwork was to alternate between work in the downtown core one year and smaller segments such as culverts or a bridge in an outlying area.

The schedule was changed after reconstructing Mattagami bridge to Theriault Boulevard this year in a $7.2-million project.

Work in the east end of town — from Crawford Street to the Porcupine bridge — will now take place after the downtown stretch.

This has also changed to a two-year project, instead of the originally planned one-year contract, to allow for a new 300-millimetre distribution watermain.

Right now there is only one water line servicing the area east of Crawford Creek. When there's a break on it, all of the water is shut down.