WESTLOCK – Westlock County will proceed with a structural engineering report on the Tawatinaw Valley Ski Hill chalet as councillors have signed off on a maximum budget of up to $10K, if a geotechnical report is necessary.
On the advice of community services coordinator Adrienne Finnegan, councillors voted 7-0 at their June 14 meeting to hire an engineering firm to conduct a structural engineering report of the facility, with the “potential of a geotechnical report to provide expert opinion and to investigate the settlement problem in order to come up with appropriate recommendations.”
In January councillors learned there’s been “significant movement” of the chalet and that a county-hired contractor, who’s not a structural engineer, had done “several” measurements and adjustments to the screw jacks under the chalet, while Finnegan’s report at the Jan. 18 governance and priorities meeting reads: “Building continues to move. Considering structural engineering report to be completed. Contacting companies to potentially provide quotes. Repairs will have to be completed.”
Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson asked point blank if these reports will “give us an answer.”
“I began the process of finding engineering firms that would be willing to look at the chalet for us based on the report that was provided to council in October or November of last year that showed that there were some additional cracks that were happening in the chalet. So, I’ve been between both of these firms for six months,” said Finnegan.
“They have already been provided with all of the background information in regards to the initial geotech report that was conducted in 2012, they have copies of the engineering reports and pictures and drawings … that was the information they asked for us to provide to them before they could give us an indication of whether or not they’d be capable, or willing to do this particular report.”
Finnegan’s report to council notes that at the April 12 regular meeting, administration presented a funding request for the completion of a structural report for the chalet which council declined while asking them to reach out to the engineering firm who had completed the drawing for the adjustable pile caps for the 2020 project — that firm, her report notes, does not provide geotechnical investigations.
With funding for the reports now approved, Finnegan said the firm needs to get on site for a day or two and promised council will be kept in the loop and “aware of what’s happening at the chalet.” That said, if any work to the building is required, she’s uncertain if it will be done by the end of 2022.
“Whether or not we’ll be able to do any remedial work this fall, I’m not sure. It may have to wait now until next spring,” said Finnegan.
While the budget is $10,000, which will come from the county’s building maintenance reserves, Finnegan said that’s the top end if a geo technical report is needed — $25,000 of the Tawatinaw Ski Hill budget is annually transferred into the building maintenance reserves.
Interim CAO Pat Vincent also told council he assisted Finnegan in analyzing the proposals and while they chose the cheaper option “the quality of the service that the firm would provide would meet our expectations” as they are a “credible and reputable engineering firm” who have a history of doing similar projects. Finnegan also said that two companies, not named in the package, showed interest in the project and $10,000 is the lesser of the two costs they were quoted.
“They are suggesting completing a structural engineering report at an approximate cost of $3,000. If they deem it necessary to complete a geotechnical report, additional funding would be required. The second (company) the total cost including both the structural engineering report as well as the geo tech report with them having the option to do the geotechnical report is double this amount,” said Finnegan.
A new chalet for Tawatinaw was first talked about in 2012 and with it all but finished in 2014 it had to be physically moved due to flooding — it was revealed that the initial engineering report which had selected a suitable location had been ignored. The facility finally opened to the public in 2015.
The chalet had an initial price tag of $2 million, which according to reports in the intervening years ballooned to as much as $3 million, while the $1.5 million debenture on the facility is slated to mature in 2023, leaving roughly $344,000 left to be paid this year and next.