‘Huge’ jump in White Rock’s consultant costs

White Rock spent 72 per cent more on consultants last year than in 2010.

The figures – $1,637,492 versus $951,331 – were shared in a fourth-quarter report to the city’s finance and audit committee Monday evening, and drew little comment from council members.

“We did employ a whack of consultants last year, but that’s reflective of the amount of work that was done,” Mayor Wayne Baldwin explained.

Baldwin – who made the previous council’s record of consultant spending a campaign issue last fall – told Peace Arch News Tuesday that the current council won’t follow in its predecessors’ footsteps.

Describing the 72 per cent jump as “huge”, Baldwin said many of the previous year’s projects remain unfinished.

“That was what the last council did, we’re not going to do that,” he said. “They bit off way more than they could chew.”

In her report, financial services director Sandra Kurylo attributes the sizable jump to a high level of grant and contribution funding from other levels of government, which prompted the undertaking of “a very large capital program in 2011 which had an impact on the level of consultants engaged, in particular in the engineering area.”

“In order to qualify for grant funding, the city was required to share in the costs of several projects,” Kurylo writes.

Projects that qualified for grants and other contributions included the Centre for Active Living/Peace Arch Curling Club and the White Rock Museum & Archives renovation.

Of the total spent on consultants in 2011, nearly a third – $547,784 – was paid out from October to December; the majority of that, $378,836, was for engineering services. Engineering was also the area that amassed the highest overall consultant tab for the year, at $1,039,640.

In a brief discussion of the report Monday, the biggest concern was expressed by Baldwin, who questioned why $3,816 was spent to have walking surfaces on Johnston Road from North Bluff to Thrift Avenue assessed.

Told it was done at the direction of the previous city manager to assess the surfaces’ safety for pedestrians, Baldwin said the issue was not one that warranted the services of a consultant.

“It seems to me to be a no-brainer,” he said.

Other comments came from Coun. Larry Robinson – one of two first-term councillors – who questioned $13,673 paid to Atomic Crayon for website development; and Coun. Helen Fathers, who asked if $10,748 noted for ‘Town Centre Urban Design Plan’ referred to design charettes held last spring, which Kurylo confirmed was the case.

Figures in the report are subject to year-end review. The committee voted to receive the report for information.

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