Saskatoon’s new downtown library has hit a slowdown in the construction process and the CEO of the Saskatoon Public Library has given a little more context on the situation.
A release was sent out Thursday by the library saying construction bids in August were well above budget.
CEO Carol Cooley said she was disappointed to make the announcement, emphasizing that it was not made lightly.
“We are confident that we will be able to create a new central library in Saskatoon,” Cooley said.
She said the confidence comes from the hard work they put into the project and the path they charted.
Cooley said a construction manager will carefully review the project and provide feedback.
Five cost estimates were made between 2021 and 2023, but despite this, the bids were well above the cost estimates.
She said the construction manager would also help them understand why they were seeing such a difference between cost estimates and construction bids.
“We will issue a request for proposal next week and hopefully find a construction manager as soon as possible.”
Even though the Frances Morrison Central Library was sold with a possession date set for December 2026, Cooley said they would not be moving due to the delays, noting there is a clause to that effect.
“Of course we will talk to the buyer of the library to consider staying for as long as the construction process takes,” Cooley said.
She added that they would explore other alternatives if necessary.
As for what would happen if they were still in the construction phase and couldn’t stay in the current building, Cooley said they hadn’t thought too much about it yet, adding that they were very focused on the construction project and the next steps. .
“We will eventually, if necessary, put a plan in place and share it with the community when the time comes.”
The library has indicated that it will not request additional borrowing funds at this time.
Construction on the project will not begin this fall as planned and the new library’s opening date is estimated for 2027.
The Prairies director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Gage Haubrich, said he was happy to see the project suspended, noting that too often these kinds of projects are implemented.
“It’s good to see some rationality on the part of the library board saying, ‘We can’t afford it right now, the costs are too high, so we’re going back to the drawing board.’ ” Haubrich said.
A 2017 KPMG report said the Francis Morrison Central Library, built in 1966, failed to comply with modern building codes and fire requirements for nearly 20 years.
One of the many violations noted in the report was that the building did not have a sprinkler system in case of fire.
Ryan Fredrickson is director of advocacy and procurement for the Saskatchewan Construction Association and said he has seen the cost of construction increase since 2019, adding that COVID-19, inflationary costs and labor constraints have all played a role in this increase.
“As we move and face increasing construction costs, this is something unprecedented. And because of that, it’s difficult to anticipate exactly where the budget numbers will go, and they’ve certainly grown faster than anyone could have imagined,” Fredrickson said.
He expects things to return to normal over the next two years, saying he expects things to slow down, but he worries about costs stifling investment in Saskatchewan.
“It’s important that we continue to grow and develop our communities and infrastructure,” Frederickson said.
He added that it is not uncommon for projects like the new library to abandon the construction phase and be re-evaluated given the circumstances.
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