The Strathcona County Taxpayers Association would like to bring attention to yet another infrastructure project that experienced large cost overruns and still experiences an operating deficit.
Across from County Hall is a biomass heating system that was designed to provide efficient use of energy as well as a reduction of greenhouse gases. This would be done through the biomass method of burning refuse, wood chips, and waste pellets.
The biomass heating facility is currently not working as designed. The plant does not operate without constant human interaction. The planned biomass fuels are too expensive and instead the plant must use natural gas boilers to operate.
The initial construction of the project was almost 9 million dollars which included a 38.7% cost overrun. To date only about 50% of the initial projected customers use the facility. This results in an annual operating deficit of $700,000.
The annual deficit is funded by all taxpayers. Members from the Strathcona County Taxpayers Association have met with representatives from Strathcona County. It is important to note Strathcona County has been extremely helpful in providing information on the facility. Our members were given a tour of the facility and full access to all information available.
The project was conceived and built more than a decade ago. There were initial cost overruns and an unforeseen annual operating loss we are still burdened with. unfortunately this project is not a stand alone example of a project gone wrong in Strathcona County. And it is not a simple matter of just closing the plant to save the annual losses.
The next major project Strathcona County wants to undertake is a 31 million dollar agricultural facility. The Strathcona County Taxpayers Association is deeply concerned there will be more cost overruns and more operating losses all residents will be burdened with.
We should look ten years in the past to see ten years to the future and think twice before we build someone’s mega million dollar pet project.