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Construction of Coquitlam school field jumps to $3.6 million

Monday, city council increased the budget to build the new Centennial secondary field, by $600,000.

Less than three weeks after Coquitlam parks managers touted the success of last year’s capital works — with many outdoor projects coming in on, or under budget — the department is now showing back-to-back cost escalations for two upcoming builds.

Last month, city staff said the new training centre at Coquitlam Firehall 1 would be $300,000 more than originally budgeted in June 2019, for a total price tag of $2.1 million.

And, on Monday, Don Luymes, Coquitlam’s general manager of parks, recreation, culture and facilities, asked for another $600,000 to construct the Centennial secondary turf field.

The construction of the long-awaited field, located on the old high school site at the corner of Poirier Street and Winslow Avenue, is due to start this spring — pending School District 43’s site preparation work — with the city’s completion scheduled for later this year.

The extra money, which was approved by city council on March 1, will be pulled from the land sales reserve fund; like the fire training centre, the field estimate was made in 2019.

Luymes told the Tri-City News that the city typically doesn’t dip into its land sales reserve but did so because of a recent parkland swap with SD43. The city’s construction cost is now set at $3.6 million plus $62,000 a year to maintain it and $107,000 a year for asset replacement as part of a joint-use agreement with SD43, which continues to own the land.

Luymes defended the higher field bill, saying much time has passed since council put a placeholder in its capital budget for the work. “As projects get defined, sometimes you have higher costs and sometimes you have lower costs,” he said. “For Centennial, we didn’t know what the soil conditions were so the budget was refined with council authorization.”

In general, he said, construction costs in B.C. are rising about 5% to 6% a year because of currency rates (for international materials) and for labour. While some pricing for outdoor jobs are better than in previous years, contractors are also factoring in more time for indoor work because of physical distancing protocols. “They’re adjusting to a new reality.”

Further complicating the Centennial work is a legal challenge by SD43 against its insurance company. In January, the Tri-City News reported SD43 had filed a petition to seek payments from Zurich Insurance that the school district claims owes more than $265,000 in top-up payments required to keep a new contractor on the job after enduring years of shoddy and delayed work for the $50-million high school replacement project.

Last summer, the city hired a consultant to design the field, with input from SD43 staff and the Coquitlam Field Sport Association. Once built, the lit field will be used by Centennial students as well as the public — after hours — for football, soccer and field hockey.

“The joint-use agreements we have with SD43 are a win-win. They bring our community much-needed amenities and services at a shared cost,” Mayor Richard Stewart said in a statement. “I know many families and youth in Coquitlam will be excited to see the shovels in the ground for this field. It will be a wonderful addition to our artificial turf field network.”

“I am extremely proud of the cooperative relationship School District 43 enjoys with the city of Coquitlam,” SD43 board chairperson Kerri Palmer Isaak added. “With the district providing the land and the city of Coquitlam providing the amenities, the new turf field at Centennial secondary will be of great benefit to the school and the entire community.”

— with files from Stefan Labbé and Diane Strandberg