Okotoks Fifth Season — Construction
It’s synonymous with summer, and we have all talked about it at some point. Many of us have been frustrated it interfered with our already tight timelines. We have no doubt bemoaned, criticized it and at one point or another, questioned its purpose — of course, we're talking about construction.
Colloquially referred to as our “5th season,” capital-led construction projects are an inevitable facet of municipal planning. And, while it may seem at times these processes are counterintuitive, or in some cases blatantly at odds with logic and reasoning, there is a lot of thoughtful consideration that goes into the process.
The Economic Development team sat down with Ed Smith, Engineering Technologist with the Town of Okotoks, and asked a few questions about construction in Okotoks.
1. What are some examples of municipally-owned assets that require maintenance and repair?
All surface works, such as your roads, sidewalks and curbs. But also you need to take into account deep utilities such as water, storm and utility lines. They are town-owned and they all have a service life. Depending on what asset is failing or showing distress — the goal is to catch it before you get to a removal and replacement scenario.
2. How do we go about prioritizing or deciding on what to address first?
There are different approaches the Town can utilize depending on the nature and scope of the project. Sometimes repairs and maintenance are driven by complaints received from the public. Sometimes it’s noticed by municipal employees. But there are also third-party companies who measure the SDI (surface distress index) — which measures among other things, the ride-ability, breaking points, and deterioration of infrastructure such as, sidewalks and asphalt. One of the most extenuating factors is how busy or how many trips occur on roads or sidewalks. For example, maintenance requirements for Southridge Drive are going to be greater than for Milligan Drive, which would, in turn, be greater than Cimarron Grove Drive.
In some cases, we can plan for work, but it could get expedited due to an unforeseen event. In other cases, additional work may be added to the scope of a project to take advantage of time and place. And in some other cases, it’s a matter of making the most of an opportunity, such as helping aid servicing to new development.
3. What does the process look like in procuring services to maintain and repair these assets?
The typical process for a larger scale project first involves identifying a location or area of concern. Once identified, we then issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) to various consultants, with a high-level description of what is required and what we expect. With that information, interested parties make submissions, which are reviewed. Once a successful submission is awarded, another RFP is issued for construction, which covers the actual construction and work for the project. All of this is dependent on the scope of the project. Some projects require greater review, are greater in RFP length and in some cases require public consultation, others can be completed quite quickly.
4. What sort of timelines do you typically work within?
This really depends on how elaborate the project is. Where is it located? How busy or well used the area of concern is, and how much work needs to be accomplished. Timelines are also tied to our budget cycle — money that has been allocated for a specific year should be tied to work completed in that same year; this can be in stages for a project, or for the entire project. Through the planning process, we remain cognizant of potential disruptions to the public and businesses and do our best to mitigate any negative effects.
5. Why does it always seem to take longer than anticipated?
The million-dollar question. Sometimes there are underlying factors we do not necessarily know. Sometimes underground infrastructure has moved. Sometimes there is an issue with the supply of raw materials for repair. And in some cases, the project may exceed the budget, which requires a review of the RFP. There is also the case of some projects having aspects that just take time to complete. In these cases, there are elements that are beyond the Town, contractors or the consultant's control.
6. What is one of the most common questions you receive regarding construction?
“Why don’t you do it at night?” Well. you pay a premium for that work. Crews get paid additional for working in the evening, which also requires light lamps (additional cost), and those are connected to a generator, which creates its own issues.
Another common question, is “Why is it always in the summer?” All of our work is weather-related, and given the climate we live in, there is a small timeframe to complete everything in the year. We typically need to squeeze 10 months of work into a 5-6 month period, which means we are just trying to get as much done in the shortest amount of time.
This article is being provided as part of Okotoks Economic Developments' commitment to keeping the local business community informed on topics that affect them. Our commitment to local businesses is to let them know about projects that affect them as early as possible so that they can plan and prepare for any possible disruptions. If you are a business owner and have a question about construction and your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.