Hall outlines steps city taking in wake of parkade cost overrun

Mayor Lyn Hall said he didn't receive any follow up, after being forwarded an email from parkade developer A & T Project Development in 2018 warning the project would be over budget.

Emails obtained by The Citizen through a Freedom of Information request showed that former city manager Kathleen Soltis forwarded an email from Frank Quinn of A & T to the mayor on July 4, 2018. In his email, Quinn warned that the city's parkade project at Sixth Avenue and George Street was facing "very large overruns."

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An hour after Soltis sent the mayor the email, A & T president Jeff Arnold sent the city a detailed spreadsheet estimating the cost of the parkade project at $19.9 million.

In her email, Soltis pledged to keep the mayor informed when she knew more. 

That didn't happen, Hall said during an online press conference on Monday, and that he was as surprised as the rest of city council when the cost overruns came to light in December, 2020.

"We now know mistakes have happened at virtually every turn on this project. We understand people want someone to blame. It would be easy to point fingers without having all of the information. We’re not going to do that," Hall said. "We are committed, however, to understanding all the facts around what went wrong on this project, and ensuring that accountability is based on facts and evidence."

City council has approved a number of measures to investigate what happened, and taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again, Hall said.

"We certainly understand the people of Prince George are extremely concerned and angry with what’s happened. You have every right to be," Hall said. "We’re seeking a legal review of the parkade project to fully understand where it went wrong and why, and to provide recommendations for processes to minimize the risk of something like this happening again."

Council has already amended the city's manager's delegated authority to approve cost overruns for capital projects, and requested quarterly reports on the use of that authority going forward.

The city will consider hiring external project managers to oversee capital projects, moving forward.

"We’ve passed a resolution directing the acting city manager to pursue options for an internal or external auditor to review future capital projects," Hall said. "Administration will recommend that council approve conducting an external review of the city’s capital project management processes and develop a new project management framework to provide consistency in how projects are delivered."

Council is also seeking a legal review of the city's delegated authority policy, and requesting the city develop a whistleblower policy.

"We are committed to sharing the results of all of these actions with the residents of Prince George in a clear and timely fashion," Hall said. "As the responsible body for the municipality, this council – and I as mayor – take the mistakes that happened very seriously. We are committed to full transparency and accountability, and to taking corrective measures to ensure these kinds of things cannot happen again."

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