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More construction woes plague Penetanguishene

Councillors upset at additional costs around the intersection project on Robert Street and Fuller Avenue
Committee of the whole Wednesday voted to bring to council staff's recommendation that an additional $100,000 be allocated for the Robert Street and Fuller Avenue intersection construction project. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday

A Penetanguishene councillor thinks the town is getting "screwed" by the intersection improvements on Robert Street and Fuller Avenue.

"This is another thing we've looked at over a number of years," said Coun. Dan LaRose at last week's committee of the whole meeting. "And I'm kind of at a loss to understand how at Christmas time when we passed the budget all the money was there, and now all of a sudden three months later it's doubled. What kind of engineering firm are we hiring that didn't get it right?"

He inquired from staff how the price has increased from $50,000 to an nearly $150,000.

"It's a basic T-intersection, there's nothing exciting about it," said LaRose. "I could see if this price was from six or seven years ago, but the price we got to do this was less than six months ago. I wonder either we're doing something wrong or somebody isn't providing us with the information. It just seems like we're getting screwed."

Bryan Murray, director of public works, explained that the reasons for the additional costs include the need to acquire nearby property.

"To entertain the property requirements associated with the project," he said, "bumps it up to a higher class of environmental assessment which requires detailed public consultation, additional studies associated: an archeological assessment, an environmental impact study associated with the land required." 

Additionally, Murray said, as the project progressed, staff became aware of design shortcomings. 

"We're trying to fit all of the auxiliary lanes as are outlined in the figure within the allocated road right of way width that we had available at the time," he said. "Pole relocations are now required as part of the design. There's also a gas sub-station on the east side of the road, which is required to shift the road further to the west side of the intersection.

"This is the main reason why we're going to need property associated with this intersection," added Murray. "It's a very busy intersection."

LaRose said all these factors were pre-existing and should have been part of the proposal by the company hired to do the job.

"What part of all that did they not know at Christmas when this was brought forward to our capital plan?" he said. "That road has existed there for eons. That gas station where the piping comes up on the end has been there for eons. How do we take a quote from somebody and they didn't bother to drive to the end of the intersection to look around? It's crazy."

LaRose had support from Coun. Debbie Levy

"I'm not going to support this at this moment," she said. "We just spent $350,000 of unbudgeted money and sometimes you just have to say no, if you're trying to be fiscally responsible. That light has been waiting forever. It can wait a little longer."

Mayor Doug Leroux interjected and cautioned LaRose about his use of "flowery" language when expressing himself. 

"We are being televised," Leroux told LaRose. "I agree with you that it is concering, but it's the language that you have to watch on TV." 

LaRose said he would apologize if he had used any expressions beyond what is acceptable in the situation. He went on to use a different analogy to explain how upset he was.

"If I was to go buy a new car and they told me it was $50,000," he said. "And when I go pick it up and they wanted to charge me $100,000, I would be very upset. That represents the difference of a 1% tax increase because somebody that we hired to go and engineer did a lousy job."

The mayor also addressed Levy's comments.

"Coun. Levy, I disagree with you because I know it's a concern and shouldn't happen, but at the same time, we have been waiting for years to get that intersection addressed," Leroux said. "It is an issue and it is a big problem, so I think we have to move forward on it."

At the end of the debate, comittee of the whole voted to bring the request to the next council meeting.