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Council delays vote on Condill Hotel demolition budget increase

Fort St. John city councillors deferred a vote Monday morning on whether to approve a budget increase to buy and demolish the Condill Hotel.
The Condill Hotel in Fort St. John.

Fort St. John city councillors deferred a vote Monday morning on whether to approve a budget increase to buy and demolish the Condill Hotel.

Council has been waiting for legal advice after its demolition contractor NAPP Enterprises went grossly over budget after underestimating the amount of asbestos-containing materials it would need to clean up when it bid on the work.

A rare special open meeting on the matter was called for today, but council wanted to discuss its legal advice first in a closed meeting. However, it was unable to waive council procedure and go into a closed session without notice due to the absence of Coun. Gord Klassen, who is en route to a meeting in Fort Nelson. Council is allowed to waive process under the province's Community Charter, but only if it has the unanimous consent of all members. Klassen could not be reached Monday morning to give his consent. 

The city had budgeted $1.5 million for the purchase and demolition of the Condill after buying the 75-year-old hotel in a meeting closed to the public last July. Staff have since requested the project’s budget be increased to $2,150,981 after NAPP says it found three times more asbestos-containing materials than expected.

Along with the budget increase, councillors were also being asked today to direct city staff to negotiate a final contract price and scheduling adjustment for the rest of the demolition to be completed. The budget overruns would be covered by the city’s 2018 land purchases budget, set at $1 million, if approved.

Mayor Lori Ackerman declined to comment. The matter will be on the agenda for council's Feb. 26 meeting, city officials say. 

Included in the budget was the $870,000 purchase of the hotel, which had been listed on behalf of its owners by Coun. Trevor Bolin.

Councillors had given NAPP the demolition contract for $457,480, but last month the company and city staff told council costs have increased an extra $823,500 since demolition began, a three-fold increase after NAPP crews encountered three times more asbestos containing materials than it had expected.

Some of the extra costs have already been paid for through project contingencies, however, there’s another $636,827 worth of change orders currently before the city.

NAPP was supposed to have the hotel abated and torn down by Dec. 15, 2017. However, it blamed an environmental assessment of the building for the project overruns and a resulting 14-week delay of the work. Barry Barnes, president of NAPP, admitted to council that the increase was substantial, but said abating the hotel was like peeling back the layers of an onion. Up to 16 layers of extra flooring was found in some places, and amounts of plaster containing asbestos were found up to three times more than expected.

ACM Environmental carried out two environmental assessments of the hotel, one of which was done while residents were still living in the building. Barnes said it resulted in inadequate estimates of contaminated materials that went out with the city’s tender when it put a bid in for the work.

ACM, however, noted in a final report included with the tender that its estimates were “approximations only and are not to be relied upon for the purposes of preparing a demolition quote.”