Victoria council reins in Johnson Street Bridge budget increase at $1.5 million

Council rejected a recommendation from staff to increase the bridge's contingency fund by $4.8 million

The Johnson Street Bridge’s contingency fund has increased by $1.5 million, despite an initial recommendation by city staff to increase it by $4.8 million.

“I think that is enough to deal with the imminent overages for things that would happen in the next few months,” said Coun. Marianne Alto, who suggested that the increase be lowered to $1.5 million. “Capping it at $1.5 [million] now, means that council has perhaps the opportunity for a bit of a shorter tether on the project’s expenses.”

The $4.8 million increase was suggested to cover costs due to schedule delays and additional legal costs for external legal advice and participation in mediation.

In addition to the tighter budget, council also directed staff to report back at the next quarterly update on expenditures incurred and any anticipated additional expenditures and cost savings.

“I hope that it sends the message that we’re taking every possible opportunity to curtail costs, that we’re not prepared to endorse every request, that we’re looking for ways to mitigate any cost increases and that we’re certainly doing our due diligence in the oversight of the project’s expenditures,” said Alto.

By doing a gradual assessment of what additional costs may be necessary, Alto said there will be more opportunities to reduce costs.

“We’re not interested in just authorizing [an] array of expenditures without knowing what they are,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, adding she still expects many of these costs to be recovered in the mediation process.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he is satisfied with the reduction of the increase from $4.8 million to $1.5 million.

“We’re already over budget, and we’re going to rein this in as much as we possibly can.”

This increase will bring the bridge’s budget to $94.3 million. The original budget was estimated at $63 million.

Going into Thursday’s meeting, Loveday said he felt backed into a corner by the two options presented by staff to either accept the $4.8 million or put a stop on the project.

“This option allows us to have greater oversight over the project as a council,” he said. “This means that every time there are expenditures that are over and above what we’ve already approved, we’re going to go through it line by line and ask tough questions.”