$3.54 million spent on unsuccessful Stave Lake water proposal

Abbotsford spent $2.44 million on the failed Stave Lake water supply project, with another $1.1 million invested by the water commission.

Stave Lake

Stave Lake

The city spent $2.44 million on the failed Stave Lake water supply and treatment centre proposal from April to November 2011.

It invested another $1.1 million before April 2011, in conjunction with the Abbotsford/Mission Water Sewer Commission (AMWSC) for a combined total of $3.54 million, according to figures released in a new engineering report.

The report, which was pulled from Monday’s council agenda due to time constraints, will be presented at the next regular meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 6.

The document reviews the entire project, including the decision to enter into a public-private-partnership (P3), the public information process and eventual referendum.

Of the $2.44 million spent after April 2011, $1.74 million represented project development costs, $372,000 was related to grant application costs and $327,000 was for the referendum and communication costs.

The $1.1 million spent by the AMWSC breaks down to $829,000 for project development costs and $275,000 for grant applications.

And the bulk of the money spent on project development – which includes $955,000 for Stave intake and pump station preliminary engineering, $108,000 for an environmental assessment and $237,000 for a conceptual engineering study – may still be useful.

“We had to do a significant amount of design on the Stave Lake project and regardless whether we proceed in a traditional environment or a P3 environment, if we proceed with Stave Lake, that money is well spent,” said city manager Frank Pizzuto.

However, close to $1 million was spent on the grant applications and the referendum, which failed.

The P3 business case, created for the water commission and then revised for the City of Abbotsford when Mission decided not to pursue a private partner, cost $502,000.

The Stave Lake project was a proposed $300-million water source and treatment plant to be built in Mission. Originally a joint venture by the City of Abbotsford and the District of Mission, the project was to become a P3 project which would see a private company design, build, partially finance and operate the treatment plant for a 20-year period.

Mission voted not to pursue the P3 partnership and Abbotsford chose to continue on its own. The idea was defeated by close to a 75 per cent margin during a November referendum.

While Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman was not on council when the project was proposed, he believes some of the money had to be spent.

“”The money that they’ve spent on engineering and the money that they’ve spent on consultation and reports, that money was not wasted,” said Banman.

But he said things could have been done differently.

“Well, $300,000 is what they spent to send it out to the public to vote on. Whether that was money wisely spent or not, I don’t know. In my opinion I think it was campaigned erroneously, I think it was pushed too hard. There was not enough questions answered and more fear used in my opinion.

“Whether or not that was actually wasted money or not, I don’t know if you ever waste money when you go and ask the public for their say,” said Banman.

City staff are currently discussing Abbotsford options for a new water supply and Stave Lake is still a possibility.

Pizzuto said the AMWSC will give staff some direction on how to proceed in the short and long term.

“It has always been our intent that we have a partnership with Mission and certainly the need for water for both Abbotsford and Mission is going to be there .. so we are glad to be able to discuss it with them again.”