The City of Surrey is exploring how much money might be saved if it allows its contractors to build around the clock, to the chagrin of at least one city councillor.
During a Feb. 11 council meeting, Surrey council approved a construction contract to build sidewalks and improve street lights near several North Surrey elementary schools. Details within that report dealt with allowing future contractors to submit quotes based on working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While this particular contract to build sidewalks did not include such an option, city staff recommended that “tender submissions on future contracts include an option for contractors to work 24-hours a day, 7-days a week” in an effort to “reduce the cost of construction projects and to reduce the duration of construction and its associated impact on road users.”
Despite that report’s approval, it doesn’t mean 24/7 construction will be allowed – at least not yet, explained Jeff Arason, Surrey’s Design and Construction Manager.
“What we’re doing right now is asking contractors to give us the option,” Arason told the Now-Leader. “This is kind of an information collection process so we can better understand what the benefit to the city would be. At this point in time, we are not recommending the 24/7 construction.”
Arason said contractors who submit proposals will now have the option to provide two quotes: one based on regular working hours, and another based on work being done around the clock.
This will help officials understand what the cost savings will be, he noted.
“Once we have that understanding, we can have a more meaningful conversation,” said Arason, who said a report will be presented to council at that time for consideration.
There is currently no timeline for that subsequent report.
The idea of 24/7 construction was repeated by Mayor Doug McCallum during his election campaign last fall. McCallum told the Now-Leader that building around the clock has saved other cities money.
“The rest of the world’s moving quickly, put it that way,” he said during the 2018 campaign, adding that “by doing it quickly, they save a lot of money.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew has repeatedly expressed concern about the idea. He had previously tabled a motion to reject the idea during a council meeting on Jan. 30. Staff had recommended that council approve a construction project in Cloverdale that would have allowed city contractors to work 24/7, and recommended amending the city’s noise control bylaw in order to do so.
“I will not support the public being subjected to 24/7 construction which is what this bylaw will allow,” Pettigrew said at the time. “People need a good night’s sleep and one day off.”
While council awarded the roughly $7.6-million contract to B & B Contracting on Jan. 30 – to widen 192nd Street to three lanes from 40th Avenue to Colebrook Road, as well as improve drainage from 40th to 44th Avenues – the proposed noise bylaw amendment was deafeated 5-4, with councillors Jack Hundial, Linda Annis, Mandeep Nagra, Brenda Locke and Pettigrew opposed.
On Monday (Feb. 11), Pettigrew took issue with the 24/7 idea being “inserted” into this latest report.
“I thought we dealt with it last time,” Pettigrew said. “I want it recorded that I’m officially opposed to the plan being proposed that will allow city projects to work on a 24/7 schedule and not be subject to the current noise bylaw. Staff has not received direction from council to proceed along these lines.”
Pettigrew said it was his understanding that staff were “supposed to be generating a report for us, on the pros and cons of 24/7 construction.”
Until council receives that report, and re-evaluates the idea, Pettigrew said it’s “inappropriate” to address it in any fashion.
Pettigrew asked for an amendment to remove the sentence related to 24/7 construction but McCallum didn’t allow it.
“That changes the whole intent of the report,” said McCallum.
“It does not change the intent,” replied Pettigrew.
“I’m sorry Councillor Pettigrew,” the mayor said. “I’m chairing this meeting. I’m saying that it does do it. If you don’t like this particular one (report), then vote against it.”
The report passed, with councillors Linda Annis, Jack Hundial and Pettigrew opposed.
Meantime, Surrey’s General Manager of Engineering Fraser Smith wrote in the report to council that staff will “bring forward a Corporate Report to Council in the near future identifying further opportunities toward accelerating the delivery and reducing the cost of capital construction projects.”
Council would make its decision at that time.
Meantime, the sidewalk contract was awarded to TAG Construction Ltd. on Feb. 11, in the amount of $2.97 million, including GST and contingency.
There are five projects included within that contract: new sidewalks, medians and street lighting on 144th Street from 88 to 89A Avenues (near Green Timbers Elementary); pick-up and drop-off parking and a sidewalk near Kirkbride Elementary (12150 92nd Ave.); new sidewalks and street lighting along 138A Street from 104 to 105A Avenues (near Forsyth Road Elementary); and a raised pedestrian crossing at 91A Avenue and 138th Street (Creekside Elementary).
That work is set to start this month and be completed by October.