It’s been eight months since the District of Sooke closed the Murray Road staircase leading to the Rotary Pier and Boardwalk, and it will likely be many more months before it re-opens.
Now, Sooke council has ordered a re-tender of the project after work has begun on the project.
In December, council received a staff report requesting $50,000 so the work would be completed. Council bristled at the request after only one bid was received and it was $49,000 over budget.
Staff originally budgeted $25,000 in the 2017 capital budget for the repairs. That estimate was made prior to the staircase collapsing in June.
There is also confusion with protocol.
In 2012, the chief administrative officer was given power to make purchases and sign contracts up to $25,000, but last April councillors passed a motion requiring any contract over $25,000 to be approved by council.
Rolling Tides Construction was awarded a $74,000 contract by municipal staff in June and has already completed $19,000 worth of work.
“The challenge is we are aware that the stairs have fallen, but this is the first time we’ve had the conversation about it,” Mayor Maja Tait said at a meeting this week.
“I’m surprised the work has already started because I expected it to come back to council.”
Tait’s sentiments were echoed by several members of council.
“Council gave clear direction that no contracts over $25,000 would be awarded without council approving those contracts,” said Coun. Ebony Logins.
Added Coun. Rick Kasper: “I wasn’t 100 per cent satisfied with what was presented at the council meeting in December. Right now in the public interest this project should go back to a tendering process.”
Municipal staff was reluctant to re-tender the project.
Finance director Brent Blackhall said staff originally budgeted $25,000 to repair the staircase, but when it found out a rebuild was necessary, more money was needed.
“These things need to be dealt with before they become legal issues,” he said.
Chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan said council was also opening up the district to a legal suit if councillors re-tendered the project. She pointed out the costs will likely rise with re-tendering.
But councillors decided to a re-tender of the contract to see if bids would come in lower and to be reviewed by council.
Only Coun. Kerrie Reay voted against the re-tendering.
“I’m having trouble understanding why we are re-tendering something if it was done in the normal process,” she said.
“It’s not the first time we’ve only gotten one bid, and to ask for something to be re-tendered because you want to re-test the marketplace again, I don’t think that’s good government.”