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Big mess on campus

Cancelled college contract puts construction on hold

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 23/02) - Inuvik's plans for a new college campus have once again been put on hold.

A failure to come to agreement on a negotiated contract will postpone completion of the Aurora College Inuvik Campus for one year.

The project was to be a negotiated contract with the Department of Public Works and Services and the Gwich'in Development Corporation' GSA Construction.

Fred Carmichael, president of the Gwichin Tribal Council, said the government walked away without any discussion on their offer. The public works department said there was discussion, but its budget was firm.

"There was no negotiation," Carmichael said. "They came with one price and they were firm on that."

Carmichael said the costs of education are not a priority with the GNWT.

"We keep paying this lip-service to education and training here, and building capacity is nothing more than another government buzzword," he said. "The budget to start with was $10 or $12 million, but they've scaled it back and scaled it back. How important is education?"

"Cost over-runs at the Yellowknife jail are just out of this world, but they keep pouring the money into these institutions," he said. "What we want to do is prevent that from happening."

A.J MacKenzie, Manager of GSA construction -- a joint venture company with the GDC -- said the government wouldn't budge on the offer.

"It was supposed to be a negotiation, but public works came to the table saying their budget was $7.8 million and they left the table saying their budget was $7.8 million," MacKenzie said.

He said GSA's estimate came in just over $9 million but they were willing to go through it line by line to see where additional costs could be curtailed.

"We took over $1 million out of our price, but public works didn't move at all, so you can't call it a negotiation," he said. "They didn't try very hard, in our view."

MacKenzie said public works department was drawing their estimates from a computer in Yellowknife and never had a clear understanding of current costs in Inuvik.

"They didn't have enough homework ready to tell why our costs were not realistic in today's market," he said.

He said now, because of the delay and costs in going to tender, the government will not incur any savings by cancelling the contract.

"In going out to tender and not negotiating with us, they're not going to get a building till 2004," he said. "There has to be some cost attached to education and to Aurora College in that, through carrying temporary facilities and not having that new building."

Brian Lemax, regional superintendent with the Department of Public Works, said there was negotiation, but the budget was firmly set.

"The prices were compared and negotiated, there were some changes and deductions in the offer, but still, the price was in excess of the budget," he said. "The information was passed on to the departments involves and the decision was made that the contract could not be awarded."

"That's the maximum amount of money that was available," he said.

Lemax said the cost estimate was prepared based partly on historical prices and partly on today's construction market.

He said his department will be reviewing their cost estimate, the budget and scope of work and the project will be re-tendered.

"If it looks like the budget needs to be increased, we will make a recommendation on that," he said.

The contract will likely go out for tender "sometime in January."