[CORRECTION: The original story and headline stated that more than half the 2022 business items were delayed, in fact, only 42 percent are facing a delay.]
Fremont Connector one of 23 projects facing delays in Coquitlam
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The Fremont Connector is one of 23 Coquitlam projects facing a delay, out of 54 items in the city’s business plan for 2022, according to city staff report.
Other items falling behind schedule include, a road map for major recreation and cultural facilities, a master plan for Blue Mountain Park, and the next phase of planning for Glen Park.
“I can’t recall when I have looked at one of these trimester spreadsheets, and seen this many red Major Delay items, and as many items on hold,” said Coun. Craig Hodge in a council meeting Monday.
Eleven projects have minor delays, five have major delays, five are waiting on action from the city’s partners, and two are on hold for the foreseeable future.
It’s been a “uniquely challenging” year, according to the staff report, with progress on some items being hampered by the early 2022 COVID response, supply chain disruptions, general economic uncertainty, inflationary effects on the material prices, and a tight labour market.
These challenges are expected to continue through 2023, and the city’s partner organizations are under similar pressure, according to the report.
The delays are due to macro-economic factors, according to the report. However, the biggest stumbling block for the city has been a labour shortage.
For a city the size of Coquitlam, the vacancy rate typically hovers between 5 and 7 percent, according to Graham Stuart, the city’s director of corporate planning.
By the end of August, the 90 jobs were unstaffed, a vacancy rate of 8.5 percent. Sixty-one of these positions were able to be filled by re-training other city employees.
Many of the empty positions are from older employees retiring, and staff were confident in the city’s ability to be competitive with other municipalities regarding pay and work culture.
Stuart couldn’t say which city departments are falling short on the city’s business items, stating most of the priorities are combined effort from multiple departments.
He added that most of the highest priority items were on track.
No one to fill the job
Coun. Brent Asmundson said he doesn’t imagine the city’s labour issues are going anywhere in the next 10 to 15 years with Canada’s demographic change.
He asked staff if the city may need to reduce the number of objectives of its business plan in the future.
Stuart said moving forward to the 2023 business plan, staff need to look at the relationship between its budget and human resources.
“It’s not so much that we need more positions per se, or there needs to be more resources – there actually aren’t that many people to fill the job.”
On hold indefinitely
The Parks, Recreation, Culture and Facilities Department, however, appears to have the most delayed projects directly related to its operations.
A master plan for Coquitlam River Park and gateway planning for Town Centre Park have both been put on hold indefinitely due to “departmental capacity unavailable.”
“A lot of the times that we’ve seen capacity issues, it’s been because of our partner organizations,” Stuart said.
“This is relatively new for us … This is the first (hold) based on our organization’s capacity.”
Low labour costs in the parks department is one of the primary reasons for a projected $5 million (1.7 percent) surplus to the city’s general fund in 2022.
Overall, the report indicated strong financial and development performance over the second trimester. Revenues from development permits and business licensing trended higher than budget projections.
The number of in-stream development projects were at “historic highs” even though increasing interest rates and declining residential sales may have potential impacts.
A total of $417 million in construction value was added to the city’s inventory in the second trimester, bringing the total to $712 million for 2022.
The city received 361 new building permit applications, totalling 651 for the year, a 17 percent decrease from the number received over the same period in 2021.