Underground utilities project shelved for now

The one bid received was over budget

The District of Houston council has shelved, at least for this year, a key project that forms part of its long-term plan to improve the look of the community along Hwy16 in the downtown core.

The decision came at council’s Aug. 4 meeting in examining the one bid that came in to place utility lines underground from the Buck Creek Bridge to Butler Ave.

That bid from CH Underground Utilities Ltd. was, with all of its costing broken out into various aspects needed to place utility lines underground, over the allocated budget by $453,680.

“It was very disappointing,” said Mayor Shane Brienen of council’s review of the costs. “This is a very important part of our beautification plan.”

“There were aspects here of additional costs.”

The project involves placing BC Hydro, Telus and CityWest lines underground and improved transportation ministry street lighting.

The higher bid price topped previous cost estimates provided by BC Hydro, Telus, CityWest and the transportation ministry.

Council is now seeking a meeting with provincial energy minister Michelle Mungall and BC Hydro.

That’s because BC Hydro has agreed to provide $237,600, or 30 per cent, of the cost to place its lines underground and council wants assurance that money will be available next year when the project comes up again during council budget deliberations, said Brienen.

“We want to see if that money will be available next year,” he said.

The District itself had agreed to shoulder the costs of placing Telus and CityWest line underground.

Brienen said council is particularly disappointed as the work plan for this year was to place utility lines underground in concert with another project, constructing a sidewalk from Benson to Poulton.

“The sidewalk project will go ahead but it makes everything hard to complete,” he said.

Sidewalk construction will include preparing the spots where new lighting poles are to be placed.

Brienen emphasized that both the sidewalk and placing utility lines underground form a part of the District’s longterm vision to beautify and improve infrastructure along Hwy16 and within the downtown core.

It is viewed as a component to attract investment and new residents to the community.

The sidewalk project cost is contained within the budget approved by council this year for the Ninth Street underground infrastructure and surface rebuilding that is now underway.

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