Saskatoon Public Library looking at next steps of construction project – Saskatoon



Saskatoon’s new downtown library has hit a speed bump in the construction process and Saskatoon Public Library’s CEO gave some more context on the situation.

A release was sent out Thursday from the library saying construction bids came back in August much higher than what was budgeted.

CEO Carol Cooley said they were disappointed to make the announcement, noting it wasn’t made lightly.

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“We’re very confident that we are going to be able to deliver a new central library for Saskatoon,” Cooley said.

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She said that confidence comes from the hard work they’ve put into the project and the path they’ve charted forward.

Cooley said a construction manager will be taking a good, hard look at the project and giving their input.

Five cost estimates were done between 2021 and 2023, but despite that, bids were much higher than the cost estimates.

She said the construction manager will also help them understand why they were seeing such a difference between the cost estimates and the construction bids.

“We’ll be releasing a request for proposal next week and hopefully getting a construction manager in short order.”

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Even though the Frances Morrison Central Library was sold off with a possession date set for December 2026, Cooley said they will not be moving out due to the delays, noting there is a clause in place for that.

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“Of course we’ll speak to the purchaser of the library to look at remaining for as long as the construction process takes,” Cooley said.

She added they’ll be exploring other alternatives if need be.

In terms of what happens if they are still in the construction phase and can’t remain at the current building, Cooley said they haven’t been thinking too much on that yet, adding they are very focused on the construction project and the next steps.

“We’ll eventually, if necessary, have a plan in place and share that plan with the community when the time comes.”

The library noted that it will not be asking to borrow additional funds at this time.

Construction for the project won’t begin this fall as scheduled and an opening date for the new library is estimated now for sometime in 2027.

Canadian Taxpayer Federation prairie director Gage Haubrich said he was happy to see the project get put on hold, noting all too often these kinds of projects get pushed through.

“It’s good to see some rationality coming from 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.

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A KPMG report from 2017 said that the Francis Morrison Central Library, which was built back in 1966, was non-compliant with modern building codes and fire requirements for nearly 20 years.

One of the many violations pointed out in the report showed that the building didn’t have a sprinkler system in case of fire.

Ryan Fredrickson is the director of advocacy and procurement for the Saskatchewan Construction Association and said they’ve seen the cost of construction rise since 2019, adding COVID-19, inflationary costs and workforce constraints have all played a part in that increase.

“As we moved over, and traversing all these costs rising in construction, it’s something that’s been unprecedented. And because of that it’s hard to anticipate exactly where budget figures will go, and certainly it’s escalated quicker than anyone could have imagined,” Fredrickson said.

He expects some return to normalcy over the next year or two, saying he expects things to cool off, but he worries about the costs stifling investment in Saskatchewan.

“It’s important that we continue to grow and that we continue to develop our communities and our infrastructure,” Frederickson said.

He added that it’s not unheard of for projects like the new library to pull back on the construction phase and reassess given the circumstances.

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