A Modest Riposte

A response to last weeks letter to the editor by CAO of the Town of Golden David Allen

One must certainly be more than pleased that a busy and important executive such as David Allen would take the time to personally email a document to me (and that on a Saturday) in answer to my troublesome questions about the costs of the Bridge to Bridge project.

And indeed, in taking up the cudgels for this proposed $4.5 million project one can only admire the vigour and candour of the Town’s Chief Administrator in seeking to correct the poor misapprehensions of those such as myself.   To stand accused of  misrepresentation by such as Mr. Allen is of course a serious matter, though  in all sincerity I had thought that my quest for answers to my questions was at an end when Mr. Allen  had emailed me earlier that same week to advise that if I wanted answers to my questions I should make a Freedom of Information Act request.

But clearly in taking Mr. Allen at his word that the answers would not be provided unless I made a Freedom of Information application I misrepresented Mr. Allen’s position, for lo and behold after complaining of not receiving answers in a Letter to the Editor on May 16, 2012 the Town has now published  answers to all my questions, and who could not admire the forthright manner in which Mr. Allen has advised us all, and me in particular by personal email, of this happy development.

So as to a couple of those answers.  There is a document prepared for the Town by Urban Systems Ltd. called the Bridge to Bridge Project Justification and Business Case.   It is essentially 20 pages of text, and now, with the frankness that we have all come to expect of the Town Administration they have disclosed that we, the taxpayers, paid something in excess of $100,000 for the preparation of this document.    The Urban Systems Project Justification Report has nothing to do with the engineering for the project.   It was written to JUSTIFY the project.

The cost of these 20 pages of text is disclosed on page 10 of the FAQ package for Golden residents.   Of course, as a mere country solicitor the thought of spending  $5,000 per page to have Urban Systems  Ltd. and its consultants advise our Town that they believe it would be a desirable outcome that we spend $4.5 million dollars to improve 330 metres of dyke appears somewhat excessive.  However, I would be the last to wish to misrepresent the situation.     I merely encourage all residents of the town to seek a copy of this remarkable document from the Town office; it may be a unique opportunity to hold in your hands twenty pages that are apparently  worth $100,000, and after all, we paid for it.

In his commendable determination to ensure that “accurate information” is circulated with respect to B to B, Mr. Allen complains of my suggestion that $800,000 is not budgeted for dyke improvement but other amenities.  Mr. Allen says the total cost of the beautification project is about $725,000.  Yet on page 14 of the Urban Systems Project Justification Report one reads that “The ineligible Flood Program Costs associated with the riverfront enhancement are $762,000,” and this figure does not apparently  include an allowance for cost overruns.

Again with laudable directness Mr. Allen advises us that the designs depicted in the information package are conceptual only, detailed engineering is yet to follow. However, in answer to my questions we know that Urban Systems has been paid already (in addition to the money for the Project Justification Report) in excess of $88,000.  And detailed engineering is yet to begin!

One might be excused for observing that with the money paid to Urban System to date for the Justification Report and the additional $88,000 the Town could have hired a full-time engineer for a year.

In the Residents package it is stated that Urban Systems is expected to be paid $535,014 plus GST  to complete the Project, while other consultants will receive  $289,205.80.    I do not believe it is misrepresenting matters to point out that this sum divided by 330 metres of dyke yields a figure of $2,500 FOR EVERY SINGLE METRE OF DYKE .   No doubt residents of the town will be gratified to know in strolling down a future dyke that for every two to three steps they take $2,500 worth of engineering and consulting expertise was involved.

Surely this will be the most expensively engineered 330 metres of dyke in the history of the Province of B.C.!!

At the risk of calling down another of Mr. Allen’s trenchant replies, or perhaps another of Mr. Caleb Moss’s elucidations, one might observe that to a mere taxpayer it appears that the Town administration has lost financial control of the Project already, before the digging has even begun.

Bruce Fairley