West Muskoka is getting a new paramedic station but at an additional cost of more than $1.1-million.
District Council voted Monday to move ahead with the $5.6-million project, which will see the Port Carling Paramedic Station rebuilt from the ground up on district-owned land in Glen Orchard. The decision gives district staff the authority to negotiate and enter into an agreement with the contractor as council dissolves and is reformed during the municipal election.
Jeff Yeo, Director of Facilities and Support Services, told council that based on the 2018 construction of the Bracebridge Paramedic Station, staff estimated construction costs to be about $296 per square foot for the new station.
Because of supply chain-related price increases, Yeo said the current cost of $420 per square foot is now “favourable” compared to similar projects in Southern Ontario.
Jeff McWilliam, Muskoka’s Chief of Paramedic Services and Emergency Management said in March that the current station “is in need of repair and replacement,” and is the only leased paramedic station in the district, at an annual cost of about $52,000 for lease and upkeep.
McWilliam told council this week that the new, purpose-built station is an important part of the plan to improve paramedic services in West Muskoka.
“We’re looking at overall deployment within Muskoka, and part of that plan anchors around the Port Carling station. So by moving this station forward, it has an impact on what we do in further-west Muskoka,” said McWilliam. “We’re on a path to be better and to be more efficient right now, and that’s the goal of this station.”
Several councillors voiced concerns about the spike in cost, with Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding noting that the price of construction materials is currently in decline and could drop significantly by the time shovels go into the ground.
“Do we have to rush to this finish line in the next three months? I’m struggling a little bit because this is a lot of money, double our budget,” said Harding. “My gut sense would say: do some investigation, let’s figure out where we’re going to go with pricing, but let’s wait until a new council is sworn in before this decision is made.”
According to Yeo, the current timeline has the project starting this fall with an end date in late 2023. He added that waiting for the next term of council would delay the project by “six months if not upwards of a year.”
As for the price of materials, Yeo said that until the supply chain rebounds, it’s impossible to say for sure that construction costs would be lower. According to Yeo, contractors will typically only hold a quoted price for around 90 days, and waiting to start the project might end up costing the district more.
Ultimately, council voted 17 to three in favour of moving forward with the project as it stands.
“I hate to see the huge increase in cost, but there’s no guarantee it’ll come down,” said Councillor Robert Lacroix. “So if time is of the essence to finish this project, then I will be voting in favour of it.”