January 21, 2015

City’s new operations centre millions under budget

The StarPhoenix

The contract for Saskatoon’s civic operations centre, which is supposed to be complete by December 2016, is $25 million cheaper than expected.

The city had budgeted $185 million for building construction and 25 years of operation and maintenance. The project is now pegged at $160 million. Almost a quarter of the costs — $38.5 million — will be paid by the federal government through a public-private partnership (P3) grant.

Under the P3 agreement, the project cannot go over budget. Unbudgeted costs over $160 million are the responsibility of Integrated Team Solutions, the company that won the contract to build and maintain the centre for 25 years.

Mayor Don Atchison said the savings will free up money for the city to invest sooner in other projects, including interchanges, hockey arenas and track facilities.

“The list goes on and on of infrastructure projects,” Atchison said.

The facility, which will be located west of the city landfill next to Dundonald Avenue, will have room to store 224 buses and will eventually house all transit operations.

Atchison said the new storage facility will be “state of the art.”

“The transit workers are finally going to be able to work in a safe environment in which they’ll no longer need to deal with diesel fumes,” he said. “When people go into work, they’re going to be able to breathe good air, clean air, fresh air.”

The move will also centralize transit in the city, Atchison said. Currently, some bus maintenance, bus storage, bus bodywork and access transit are located in different areas of the city.

“We’re going to have a better working relationship with the different departments, too, because they’re all going to see each other and understand what’s going on,” Atchison said.

City buses are presently stored at the Caswell Hill bus barns, which have prompted complaints from nearby residents about fumes and noise.

Once buses have moved out, the plan is to convert the land occupied by the barns from an industrial area to a mixed-use community. Atchison said the details of what that will look like have not yet been determined.

“Those discussions will occur into the future,” he said, adding that whatever happens will “rejuvenate” the neighbourhood.

The civic operations centre, which is the city’s first P3 project, will also be home to the city’s first snow-management facility, where up to a million cubic metres of snow can be stored.

Construction of the project is to begin this spring, with completion scheduled for December 2016. Saskatoon Transit, with its fleet of buses, is scheduled to move into the facility in January 2017.

Atchison said construction of the centre will create jobs locally.

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