Winkler's proposed wastewater treatment plant that went to tender in late winter is going back to the design phase, and the tender process has been scratched.
Mayor Martin Harder says when the tenders closed, the numbers came back substantially higher than the $48-million approved and secured for the project. Initially, Harder said Council was struggling with the question of how to cover the balance.
Harder said Council first came up with a proposal where they would come up with half of the 'gap' and allow the Province to cover the other half, however, Harder said that wasn't possible. "We were hoping to get the feds (federal government) involved, but that was impossible to open that one up." He said that left the city with a massive project on their hands they were not prepared for, and neither did they feel the city had the borrowing capacity to take on that burden. "So, we went to them, the Manitoba Water Services Board handled the tendering process, and we concluded that we couldn't reach an agreement prior to the first tender deadline."
Harder said the Province then proceeded to ask for an extension to the second-lowest bidder, which was again substantially higher than the first lowest bidder. He said that dragged on for another thirty days, only for them to find out they couldn't come up with a solution that was acceptable to the taxpayers without them carrying the entire burden of the overage.
"We decided that we're going to cancel the tender process and we are going back to square one and determine what in the process could be changed in order to reduce the tender amounts to a level that would be acceptable within that $48-million approval. So, the process right now, is we go back, we review, we come up with another proposal, perhaps a new design, perhaps an alternative design and then go back and start the tendering process all new again."
The period that we have come through with the coronavirus, product shortages, and the increase in pricing of those products have all of that contributed to this overrun. . . "We simply don't want to mortgage our grandkids on this project," exclaimed Harder.
The wastewater treatment plant is something that is very much needed for Winkler and the surrounding region, and Harder said they will continue to lobby the provincial and federal governments as they strive to get this project done within the approved $48-million budget.
"As long as we meet the environmental standards, the process itself should be able to be changed. There may be an alternative, there may be a way in which we can save them money, and we want there to be flexibility between the province and the feds to accept the new process, again, using science. Don't go back and say, 'well this project didn't work out, so therefore I'm pulling all my money back and giving it somewhere else.' We still need the money, we still need the project, we still want to grow and so therefore we just need to ensure the politicians are flexible enough to accept a different process."
Meanwhile, Winkler City Council passed a resolution at its meeting Tuesday evening, which address situations like they are in with the wastewater project, where tenders come in much higher than a project has been approved for.
"We don't think that it is a municipal responsibility to carry all of that burden. And the return on the investment for the federal and provincial governments is significantly higher than they are for the municipality that does these projects, and so, therefore, we are just asking the feds and the province to have an openness to look at the overall cost of the project and adjust their contribution to cover their portion of it, similar to what the municipalities expect them to do."
Harder says they have sent a letter out to all members of the Pembina Valley Reeves and Mayors (PVRAM) asking for their support on the resolution. He said they already have confirmation from the Town of Altona, the City of Morden, and the RM of Morris that they will be supporting the resolution.
A joint proposal will be presented at the Association of Manitoba Municipality's Central meeting in June.
Correction: The original article said the community of Lowe Farm was in support of the resolution, when in fact it should have said the RM of Morris.