Huge cost overrun hits high school project

By Mike Williscraft
NewsNow

While the provincial government has given the green light to West Niagara’s new secondary school going out for tender, officials may also be awaiting an explanantion for massive cost overruns on the new facility’s site remediation.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 23, Distriact School Board of Niagara (DSBN) officials – along with Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff – announced the step in the process for the new school to be located on Hwy. 8, just west of Durham Road, a site which was long-known as a brick yard.

The school, which is to replace Grimsby Secondary, Beamsville District and South LIncoln high schools, has been budgeted for $42.5 million, with an additonal $8.7 million being provided to DSBN in February 2019 for acquiring and preparing the 20-acre site.

Of that, $5 million was budgeted for soil remediation on the site which had extensive contamination.

NewsNow has learned the cost overrun is about $12 million putting the soil remediation costs now coming in at $17 million.

When asked about this item being overbudget, Kim Sweeney, DSBN’s chief communications officer, confirmed the cost exceeded its budget but stopped there.

“I can confirm that the cost of the remediation exceeded the original budget. This overage was necessary to ensure a clean site for the build. Unfortunately, the amount has been embargoed by the Ministry of Education until Jan. 15, 2021. I can give you that amount at that time,” said Yielding via email.

“Once we get Ministry approval to share these numbers with you, we can discuss the remediation project. Stay tuned for that.”

However, checking with the Ministry of Education, Oosterhoff confirmed Tuesday the embargo had been lifted and any information on the cost overrun can be made public.

As for the facility itself, the proposed build will include a greenhouse feature, which was one of the items noted during the Accommodation Review Committee process. Another which was mentioned – a theatre facility- is not currently part of the plan.

“(There is) no theatre component at this time. We have to fundraise first, and then we can seek approval to include it in the project,” said Yielding, explaining the threatre feature is now budgeted for $6.8 million.

“Trustees have approved an allocation of $4.4 million to be attributed to the fundraising efforts for WNSS. These funds came from revenue received outside of the Grants for Student Needs, specifically investment income and International Education.”

That leaves $2.4 million to fundraise for the theatre feature.

“Once we start fundraising, we will be able to apply to the Ministry to add the theatre to this project,” said Yielding.

TENDER

Regarding the project going to tender, it will go out in January when staff return to the DSBN office. It will be awarded with a Spring start for construction, said Stacy Veld, DSBN superintendent of business services, during the press conference announcing the tender would proceed.

“This investment will provide a quality learning environment and new opportunities for the children of the West Niagara community,” said Oosterhoff.

DSBN Chair Sue Barnett said the new facility will not come too soon for west end students.

“These students will soon have a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that is designed to provide them with the best education possible,” said Barnett.

“The bottom line is that this school is so important for the West Niagara community, and the futures of our students will be brighter because of it.”

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