Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 18, 2010
Construction project has had to confront rumours, serious concerns
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Some people have complained that the Edmonton Archdiocese imported sand from Spain to use in building the new St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College.
Others are not happy that the archdiocese has received money raised through lotteries to pay for the new institutions at 84th Street and 98th Avenue.
Neither rumour is true.
Wayne Provencal, archdiocesan financial administrator, said he's had to tell people who have asked about lottery funds being ploughed into the seminary and college that it simply isn't true.
The project got a $4.18 million grant from the federal government, but that money has nothing to do with any lotteries, he said.
And Lorraine Turchansky, the archdiocese's director of communications, says, "It's not true that we're importing sand from Spain."
People have also raised more serious concerns about the finances of the project and whether the college and seminary should have been moved at all.
For Garnet McKee, the archdiocese's project manager, there was no question the institutions had to be moved when the province decided to build the Anthony Henday Freeway next door.
"It was an old tired building" on "an undesirable, inaccessible site" that would have been right next to a freeway ramp, McKee said.
Staying on the existing property on Mark Messier Road would have meant tying into the city sewer system, installing new boilers and replacing asbestos in the walls at a cost of roughly $6 million, he said.
CUT A GOOD DEAL
The archdiocese did well in negotiations with the province that led to the province buying the site for $42.3 million, McKee said. "They moved a lot further (in the negotiations) than we did."
The new buildings are being built to a much higher standard that should mean they are still good quality buildings 100 years from now, he said. "We wanted a quality, long-lasting building that the archdiocese would be proud of. But the furnishings are not elaborate."
The quality construction and environmental features that will cut the cost of running the buildings added roughly five per cent to the cost of the structures, he said. But those will more than pay for themselves over the life of the buildings.
McKee also said that the tight timeline for getting out of the existing campus - the seminary and college had to be gone by June 2009 - meant there was no flexibility in when construction could begin.
"We hit the top of the market," he said, when construction prices were climbing at 1.5 to two per cent a month.
The general contractor, Dawson Wallace, had to hire 30 to 35 subcontractors and each of them had to tie in their suppliers when prices were high, he said. "If you don't tie them in, they can walk."
Once the tenders for the project came in at a higher cost than anticipated, the archdiocese cut $4.5 million from the project, McKee said.
Since the tender for the project was granted, construction prices in Edmonton have dropped 30 per cent, he said. "But we had no choice. We had to move."
The seminary and college buildings will cost $54.27 million. Moving costs, the cost of leasing temporary space for Newman College in Sherwood Park and the cost of lodging the seminarians for one year are $1.42 million.
The archdiocese has set aside $960,000 for borrowing costs because it does not expect to be able to pay the full bill for the project at the time of completion. It has also set aside another $600,000 for administration and fundraising. The total cost of the project is $57.25 million.
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