Old Smith Highway construction bid comes in through the roof
The M.D. of Lesser Slave River had budgeted a 6.9 kilometre upgrading of the Old Smith Highway this year. They had received a $3 million grant in March, and estimated it would cost about $2.5 at current rates.
Only one contractor bid on the job and that bid was for $7.5 million.
The M.D.’s Director of Field Operations, George Snider, was unwilling to use terms like ‘gouging’ when reporting the matter to council. All the same, he couldn’t recommend accepting the bid. Instead, he offered alternatives.
One was to do nothing, and expect increased maintenance costs. Another was to do shoulder and surface re-hab, which might cost about $95,000 and extend the life of the road for three to five years.
A third option, and the one Snider recommended, he called ‘construction by municipality.’ This involves hiring people by the hour to do the work, with the M.D. acting as contractor, under the supervision of an engineering firm. Doing it that, way, Snider estimated, would cost about $2.9 million.
“Would the province approve of construction by the municipality?” asked councillor Brian Rosche.
“They have before,” said Snider.
“Is there the capacity?” asked Rosche.
Snider said he’d checked around and concluded there is.
“I like the idea of using local people,” said councillor Murray Kerik. “I think some of these contractors are getting greedy.”
Council asked Snider to seek permission from the province to use its grant money in such a way.
In other Old Smith Highway news, Snider reported on maintenance of the road. Calcium chloride is on the agenda, he said. It solves dust problems and prevents ‘washboarding,’ but does get greasy when it rains.
The M.D. gets constant complaints about the state of the road, Snider told council. The dust control measures will answer some of them, but provoke others. As for grading, it can be done more often, but it costs more money and that money is not currently in the budget.
Overall, the road base is in decent shape, Snider said, but washboard continues to be a problem. Increased grading won’t necessarily fix it, he said.
Councillor Tim Walmsley had an observation.
“We used the Old Smith Highway this morning (coming to the council meeting from Flatbush) and it’s better than the roads around Flatbush,” he said. “And yet all the complaining is coming from up here.
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