By Mark Squibb
September 22, 2023 Edition
Bay Roberts Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour says delays in project approvals by the provincial government may cause major headaches for the town down the road.
“In the four years I’ve been on Public Works, this is the most frustrating experience I’ve had when it comes to capital works projects,” said Seymour, pointing to two major capital works projects this year — the realignment of the Shearstown intersection and roadwork along Water Street — that have been delayed.
“We got our stuff in on time,” said Seymour. “Water Street was submitted mid-June. And since then, it’s been a constant back-and-forth with the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Department of Environment over piddly stuff. And I understand it got approved yesterday to go to tender. So now, it’ll be a two-week period to go to tender. And then whoever gets the winning bid, it needs to be taken and analyzed to see that it meets the specs. And then the company has to order the materials.”
CAO Nigel Black noted there was actually a step in the process that Seymour had forgotten — the Town actually needs to request permission from the government before it can award the contract.
Seymour said that given the delays, it’s unlikely work on Water Street will begin this year.
He was also disappointed with the lack of progress on the Shearstown Road intersection.
“We had that engineered, sent to the Department of Transportation, they sent it back because they wanted changes, we made the changes and sent it back, and from what I understand, this isn’t anywhere close (to approval) because someone keeps going on holidays, and apparently there’s only one person at the Department of Transportation who is qualified to approve it,” Seymour said.
Mayor Walter Yetman added there were actually further changes requested.
“So, here are two projects, discussed, approved, and budgeted, because they benefit the people of this town, and here we are now, I really don’t see any of these projects going ahead this year,” said Seymour, who reminded council Bay Roberts will be hosting the 2024 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games in August.
Seymour added the Town had planned to tender further work on Shearstown this January, as it had anticipated that all other major projects would be completed by then.
“So, next year, all three of these projects will probably be going on while the Summer Games are here, because we couldn’t get anybody in St. Johns to approve the approval,” said Seymour. “I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Seymour asked whether it’s too late to submit a resolution regarding the Province’s handling of contracts ahead of the upcoming Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) 2023 Conference, scheduled for late October.
Both Yetman and Black reckoned the deadline had passed, which in fact it had on September 15.
“We did our work,” said Seymour. “I know we did our work — and this is what frustrates me —for some strange reason we can’t get anything released to go to tender. It’s mind-blowing. And now the constructions season is over.”
Mayor Yetman said according to the Town’s public works director Sean Elms, the earliest construction can begin next year is mid-April, leaving workers just three-and-a-half months to complete the work so as to not interfere with the Summer Games.
Seymour, who works at Carbonear Collegiate high school, noted Carbonear has had a number of capital works projects underway since the spring.
Yetman said he has seen capital works projects happening all over the region, and he can’t understand why Bay Roberts is still waiting on approvals. He added that while he’s happy for the other towns that have gotten projects off the ground, given the need for improvements in Bay Roberts, he doesn’t understand why council is left waiting for approvals.
Seymour added that because work on Water Street was delayed, work on Sawdust Road was delayed as well, and that paving along Sawdust Road won’t commence until at least October.
Seymour said he has talked with people in the business who are of the view it’s unwise to lay pavement in October because of the drop in temperatures.
“We’re waiting a long time to get that road done, and my fear is that if we pave in October, in a year or so, it’s going to be back to the same state it was in,” said the deputy mayor.