The City of Lacombe has gone more than $86,000 over budget in the site preparations for the sale of land to a party interested in constructing a hotel near Michener Park.
Officials have said this is due to unforeseen circumstances.
At its regular meeting earlier this week, City council heard an update on the site preparation project and learned that the project, originally expected to cost $150,000, now has an expected price tag of just over $236,000.
The increase in cost is due to amount of black dirt on the site being vastly in excess of the City’s initial estimates. Originally, it was expected that only 14 inches of black dirt overlayed native material below at the site.
Furthermore, it was believed that the existence of any borrow pits (snake pits) on the site were fairly minor and would have no significant impact on the lot.
Geotechnical drilling was conducted on the site by the potential purchaser and the results were reviewed by City administration.
The results indicated that the depths of black dirt at the site were likely less than the initial estimation.
However, after beginning work on the program, it became clear that the thickness of the dirt was much more than the 14 inch estimate and two extensive snake pits were also discovered. These problems had not been discovered during the prior examination of the land because, for an unknown reason, the snake pits were overlayed with a thin layer of imported sand.
Thus, when the geotechnical drilling occurred, the drillers would have passed through the top layers of black dirt to discover what was assumed to be native material.
In reality however, additional black dirt lay below a thin layer of sand. Because of the increase in black dirt needed to be excavated, as well as the need to haul that dirt farther than anticipated to dispose of it, the cost of the project rose substantially.
Councillor Reuben Konnik expressed his frustrations that the cost of the project was climbing and his concern about the uncertainty of the final cost of the site preparation.
“Unfortunately, I think we have to keep going, but I don’t want another memo in a month’s time saying we need (more money).”
Chief Administrative Officer Norma MacQuarrie said that the project has now been completed to the point that administration is certain there are no more snake pits or additional amounts of black dirt that will need to be removed.
“We’re fairly certain about this number,” said MacQuarrie.
The rest of council largely agreed with Konnik’s sentiments and were equally frustrated by the situation but did not see much alternative.
“I understand that we’re at a point where we are caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Councillor Peter Bouwsema.
Councillor Wayne Armishaw agreed.
“This is indeed unfortunate that the geotechnical testing did not reveal the problems and we have no option.”
To adjust for the unexpected increase in cost, council voted unanimously to allocate the additional funds from the sale of the land.