Village of Alix balks at lagoon prices about double their budget

Written by Stu Salkeld

Village of Alix council balked at the results of a tender to rehabilitate their ailing lagoon, the lowest of which came in at about double what the municipality had budgeted. 

The decision to wait on the lagoon project was made at the Sept. 1 regular meeting of council.

MPE Engineering had been hired by the village to conduct the tender for rehabilitation of cell #5 alone as the village had been unable to receive grant money for the entire project. 

At previous council meetings it was stated the entire lagoon project was estimated at about $3.2 million, with the cell #5 part budgeted at about $910,000 including contingency and engineering.

MPE representatives Chris George presented the tender results that included three bids, the lowest of which was almost double what the village had budgeted for the cell #5 project. 

The low bid came in from MCL Group Ltd. out of Edmonton for $1,775,863.01, followed by Bettensons Sand and Gravel Co. Ltd. for $1,844,461 and lastly Pidherney’s Inc. at $2,533,799.95, which is approaching three times what the village budgeted for the project.

“Prices are high,” said George, who attended the meeting with fellow engineer Greg Sentis. George stated the time of year, late in the construction season, may have been affecting the prices for the project. 

George also stated he’s observed issues like pipe and insulation prices and it seems, as the pandemic eases, economic stimulus may be affecting bids and prices.

Coun. Tim Besuijen stated the results were surprising. “This is a huge difference from what you guys forecast before,” said Besuijen.

George stated his recommendation was to set aside the results and re-tender next spring while perhaps lobbying the provincial and federal governments for more grant money. 

George stated MPE was going to do some calling around on their own to that end.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White, looking at a breakdown of the tenders, noted it looked at though certain items were coming in much more expensive than what MPE had estimated. 

George stated MPE could consider approaching the low bidder to get more information. about those prices.

During discussion, councillors asked, if a bid was approved, could the project be finished before freeze up? George answered the project could take up to two months to complete. 

Mayor Rob Fehr, doing some quick math, estimated if it was approved immediately, it still means the project could stretch into November.

Besuijen stated it was difficult to make a decision because “…things keep changing.” Besuijen stated he works in procurement so he understands situations can be fluid but the village can’t borrow money and is on a budget meaning councillors need reliable information to make their decision. 

Besuijen stated councillors rely on engineers to give them the information they need and “…this project has been all over the map.”

Besuijen added that it appears the lagoon cannot be rehabbed this year.

George responded MPE is trying to stage the project one step at a time to make the most of the funds Alix has available. He noted it seems contractor and supply prices are higher than expected and that contractors don’t seem to want to take a chance with this project.

Coun. Barb Gilliat asked how long the village can wait to rehab cell #5. White answered the village has been getting along with the lagoon in its current state for a few years and George added that he felt chances are low there will be any changes in the lagoon over winter.

Coun. Ed Cole asked what the response was from MLA Ron Orr after the village sent him a letter describing the lagoon’s situation. White stated no response has been received.

Councillors unanimously agreed to set aside the tender results and accept MPE’s report as information.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.