Changes to the contract with the consultant handling North Saanich’s OCP review have helped to push the 2021 budget for the OCP review some $60,000 over its initial annual budget of $150,000. Staff say the increase responds to public feedback, engagement. (Black Press Media File)

Changes to the contract with the consultant handling North Saanich’s OCP review have helped to push the 2021 budget for the OCP review some $60,000 over its initial annual budget of $150,000. Staff say the increase responds to public feedback, engagement. (Black Press Media File)

North Saanich exceeds OCP budget for 2021 by more than $60,000

Staff say the additional spending responds to community feedback, engagement

Calculations show the cost of North Saanich’s Official Community Plan (OCP) currently exceeds the OCP’s annual budget by more than $60,000.

This figure appears after North Saanich council approved another $35,932.00 (not counting GST) for the project as part of a change order to the original contract following a request from staff.

The request came after council last month effectively paused the process in asking MODUS, the consultant currently handling the review, for changes to the report detailing the second phase of the review among other revisions. They include clarification on six emerging concepts, which have drawn the criticism of groups such as Save Our North Saanich for being too focused on housing. A province-mandated report says North Saanich is unaffordable housing for most households with children. Council and MODUS are also scheduled to hold a workshop in late September at a public meeting.

The change order — the fifth since the start of the contract — came before council because the figure submitted by MODUS exceeded the municipality’s threshold of $25,000 for changes not subject to council’s approval.

According to a staff report detailing the change, North Saanich budgeted $150,000 for the OCP in 2021. Prior to the vote approving the additional money, the public heard that the municipality has already spent $139,996 with MODUS (not counting the most recent change order) plus incurred another $33,696 in additional internal costs for a total of just over $212,000, some $62,000 over the budget for 2021.

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“Your reading of the finances appears accurate,” said Erik Lambertson, North Saanich’s communication and engagement manager. Lambertson added that staff and council have tried to be as flexible, inclusive and responsive as possible as the OCP review process progresses. “(Two) of the change orders reflect our desire to listen carefully to the perspectives of our neighbouring Indigenous communities,” he said. “We’ll continue to be as fiscally responsible as possible while ensuring we engage with all our communities.”

When asked why the public purse should have to pay for the additional work when council’s request suggests that the work so far has been unsatisfactory, Lambertson disagreed with the premise.

“Our perspective is that (council’s) request for additional work does not suggest ‘that the work has been unsatisfactory,’” he said. “Rather, it reflects the fact that the OCP review process has resonated with the public and (council) and staff have received a significant amount of feedback. Council is simply doing its due diligence by asking that MODUS consider an even broader range and more detailed summary of public feedback and undertake additional work.”

According to the staff report, the total OCP budget over two years totals $350,000. Counting the five change orders, the value of North Saanich’s contract so far with MODUS exceeds $260,000.

John Kafka, president of the North Saanich Residents’ Association (NSRA), said his organization does not have an official position on the additional budget for the consultant, but finds merit in the suggestion that council’s request raises questions about the quality of the work.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified North Saanich’s total OCP budget. The staff report featured in the article did not include $108,000 in unspent funds from the $200,000 allocated in the 2020 OCP project budget. This carry over prevented the district from going over budget. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula