In what has turned out to be the second-most contentious file in the early days of this North Bay City Council — after the community centre and twin-pad arena — municipal politicians unanimously awarded an $8.85-million contract for the Main Street reconstruction project to Sudbury's MCA Contracting Ltd. during Tuesday's regular meeting.
"I know there are some concerns that we've heard from the community, we are approximately $2 million over the original budgeted amount for this project," said Mayor Peter Chirico just before Tuesday's vote. Councillors Chris Mayne and Gary Gardiner declared conflicts as they own downtown businesses in the project area and Coun. Justine Mallah was absent.
"I'm very, very pleased to see this going forward," Chirico later added. "I think it's going to do some wonders for our downtown and our waterfront, all of the things that we're trying to revitalize to make it a more people-friendly place and encourage additional development in our downtown core. Whether it's a perception of safety or actual safety concerns themselves, that will eliminate those, get people back to our downtown, make it a people place and certainly, this is a first step toward that."
See related: City puts Main Street reconstruction project out to tender
In March 2022, the construction cost was pegged at $6.2 million. Five bids for the construction phase were received:
- MCA Contracting Ltd. (Sudbury): $8,850,335
- Kenalex Construction Co. Ltd. (North Bay): $8,898,310
- Dominion Construction (Capreol): $9,158,758
- Canor Construction (North Bay): $9,630,975
- Ed Seguin and Sons Trucking and Paving Ltd (West Nipissing): $10,539,419
Council also approved an engineering fee increase of $80,000 to R.V. Anderson Associates Limited for work the company completed during tendering and post-tendering process.
See also: All Main Street reconstruction bids come in over budget
City staff reviewed the details of the tender submissions to ensure that specified criteria were met. With Tuesday's award of the contract to the lowest bidder, the two-year Main Street reconstruction project — already delayed one year at the request of members of Downtown North Bay & Waterfront — should get underway sometime in May, pending confirmation from the contractor.
According to the associated staff report, "The bid from MCA Contracting Ltd. was the lowest bid and provides the best overall value to the City. Their bid is considered fair and reasonable."
See: City asked to push $6.2M Main Street project to 2023 as downtown businesses recover from pandemic
Several councillors stressed the need for clear lines of communication between the downtown businesses and the project managers to hear their concerns and nip any potentially detrimental situations in the bud. Coun. Jamie Lowery, a council representative on the Downtown Board said communication had so far been good and the business owners were looking forward to the updated look.
"The previous council allowed a year coming out of Covid for downtown businesses to get back on their feet," Chirico stated. "Unfortunately, during that time we also experienced some of the highest inflation rates that we have in the last 40-50 years — which have led to higher gas prices and just about higher everything, including the increase in this project's costs, originally looked at in 2018."
Just months ago, the overall project cost, including $340,000 for engineering and design plus contingencies, was given an estimated budget line of $7.6 million. That includes $690,000 in NOHFC funding and approximately $3 million in Ontario Community infrastructure funding (OCIF). Total project costs include the
cost of construction, design fees, and engineering consultant fees.
"It is estimated that up to $2 million in additional funding is required for completion of this project," the report reads. Those funds will be transferred — $1 million from each of two municipal reserves — to cover the inflated cost of the project.
Coun. Lana Mitchell, the chair of the council's infrastructure and operations committee, acknowledged the apprehension expressed by businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic. "Many are looking forward to this despite having access to businesses disrupted downtown. At the same time, there is work that needs to be accomplished. This is a significant investment in the city's core to replace aging infrastructure."
"There are many communities that are undertaking these types of projects," said Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield in echoing Mitchell's support, citing Ontario municipalities Huntsville and Kincardine as examples. "This is a really important piece for us to move forward and keep that important space in our community well-serviced."
See also: Report: Main Street 'beyond rehabilitation'
The work will involve the replacement of surface infrastructure including a new asphalt roadway, brushed concrete and exposed aggregate sidewalks, curb and gutter, retaining walls, stairs, railings, benches, traffic lights, festoon lighting and other ancillary works. It would be the first major renovation to Main Street in nearly 40 years.
The project involves the reconstruction of Main Street from Cassells Street to Sherbrooke Street and Ferguson Street from Main Street to Oak Street, as outlined in the North Bay Downtown Waterfront Master Plan (DWMP).