Council approves $3.95 million for new library entrance

Work on a new and long-awaited entrance to the Bob Harkins branch of the Prince George Public Library is to go ahead after city council approved a $3.95-million budget for the project.

The total represents a $1.28-million increase over the estimated cost reached in late 2017 when a design had been finalized.

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All four bids submitted for the work exceeded the mark, largely because labour and material costs jumped 15-20 per cent over the last 12-18 months, council was told.

As well, $181,000 worth of extras were added to the design, primarily in the form of an extra staircase and relocation of fire department connections to the main entrance from the parkade to meet Fire Code standards. Also, the elevator was extended to the upper floor and the entry lobby was increased to 1 1/2 storeys from one storey.

The cement and metal railing staircase up to the entrance on the north side has been in place since the building was opened in 1982 and has long been considered unsightly, unwelcoming and a safety concern, particularly in the winter.

The new entrance will amount to a 2 1/2-storey addition with a total gross floor area of 394 square metres (4,240 square feet). The building envelope will consist of metal panel with extensive glazing to allow a maximum amount of natural light and create an open atmosphere.

Council members voted unanimously in favour of approving the revised budget for the project, which has been on the city's capital plan since 2014. (Coun. Susan Scott was absent from the meeting).

"Tonight, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our political will and our approval to get this library entrance done," said Coun. Terri McConnachie, who is council's liaison to the library board. "Like myself, it's not going to get any younger, it's not going to get any cheaper to fix and it's certainly not going to fix itself."

The project will be funded out of the city's endowment reserve. As of the end of 2018, it stood at $8.3 million. However, the city has since received $8.1 million from the provincial government and an extra $3.2 million from the federal government to spend on capital projects.

The same reserve will also be used to fund a $409,000 renovation to the circulation, also unanimously approved by council on Monday.

Both projects include a 10 per cent contingency. If work on the entrance project runs into trouble, city engineering director Adam Homes said it will be the "civil and the underground."

"Once we get past that, it should go fairly smoothly," he added.

He said the contract is based on a "stipulated price" as opposed to a "guaranteed fixed price" which tend to be higher to cover the cost of insurance to pay for overruns. However, Homes said there are safeguards in place to prevent the contractor from digging into the contingency without good reason.

"They have to have a reason and we look through that very carefully with the architect," Homes said.

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