CJSW construction on hold

By Chris Beauchamp

Construction has been halted on a new space for CJSW as disagreements over costs and communication problems between the campus radio station and the University of Calgary Students’ Union have mired the project in further negotiations.

The relationship between the SU and CJSW has been strained after CJSW suggested the U of C conduct an independent audit of the SU’s costs for the project. The university auditor concluded the SU was charging CJSW 10 per cent more than the audit deemed necessary.

SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Joel Lockwood wouldn’t say in what areas the audit differed from the SU’s own books, but defended the results.

“The industry standard is five to 15 per cent variance,” said Lockwood, noting current projections have pushed the project over the $1 million mark. “We’re right in the middle. That’s completely within market standards.”

Lockwood said the project could have been done in the $800,000 range, but delays associated with CJSW not signing ‘Expenditure Authorities’ to authorize the SU to begin work has driven up the costs. The delays have caused the project to go through three tendering processes, in which companies provide confidential bids on work to be done and typically an EA is signed before the tenders expire.

According to Lockwood, the most recent tenders expired Mon., Jan. 2, and due to the nature of Calgary’s booming construction market, costs are destined to go up with each new tendering process. CJSW Station Manager Chad Saunders maintains that the SU has not provided the station with information regarding the tendering process, changes to their portion of the project, timelines or a detailed breakdown of costs.

“The tenders expired Jan. 2?” asked Saunders. “That’s news to me. We’re in a position where we’re trying to get an understanding of what the real costs of this project are. If the project managers were ABC Construction and there was information not being passed along from this private company to me, the customer, that would never fly. There’s a big gap where this info has fallen behind.”

The SU is acting as project manager for extensive third-floor MacEwan Student Centre renovations that will see new space for NUTV, a multi-faith prayer space and bathroom facilities in addition to the CJSW move. The other projects are still on schedule for completion before the end of the winter term.

Lockwood initially said CJSW “pulled out” of the project and confirmed that emails to that effect were sent to companies working on the project, but later retracted his claim and noted the decision to halt the project was made by the SU at a recent CJSW Board of Director’s meeting.

“They didn’t figure they could move forward without more info,” said Lockwood, noting the SU is also concerned CJSW does not have the capital to move ahead with the inflated costs. “It wouldn’t be responsible for [the SU] as an organization to do the construction for somebody who can’t pay for it. Without a loan they certainly don’t have enough money.”

Lockwood said further costs have been incurred as a result of the independent audit. The U of C had agreed to pay basic infrastructure costs, but has now discovered extra projects associated with a radio station–such as acoustic walls and a floating soundproof floor–are more expensive than their basic counterparts, and withdrawn previously agreed funding.

Both sides affirmed their commitment to continue working to see the project completed. Saunders said CJSW is now pursuing a bank loan to supplement money the non-profit organization has raised in government grants, charity casinos and the hugely-successful 2005 Funding Drive. He said both the SU and the U of C are in a position to help the station get a bank loan by acting as guarantors. Lockwood said the possibility would be looked into.

Though the results of the university audit are confidential, Saunders is hopeful the less expensive audit figures can be realized.

“Why would we stop the project when tenders have been signed and the university came back with an audit that was affordable to CJSW?” he asked. “CJSW wants to pay for a radio station, and will pay for the costs associated with that.”

Lockwood said the project would not move forward until both sides felt they had the information needed.

“Our job now will be to educate [CJSW] on the numbers that we have and how they’re broken down,” he said. “When the board feels there’s understanding on the money side, that’s when we’re re-tendering. The CJSW specific part will be delayed until we have a signed EA.”

University of Calgary campus infrastructure–who conducted the audit–could not be reached before press time.

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