COLUMN: New Surrey schools plagued by endless delays

Process to build new schools or additions is encumbered by bureaucracy, writes Frank Bucholtz

The second of five school building projects affected by almost endless delays is getting underway.

A $23.4 million contract to build Maddaugh Road Elementary in Clayton was awarded to Pro-Can Construction. The school is expected to open in January, 2021. This follows last month’s award of a contract to build a 12-room addition to Pacific Heights Elementary in South Surrey. That project is expected to be complete by the spring of 2020.

READ MORE: Construction to begin on new Surrey elementary school

In both cases, they will open much later than originally promised by the provincial government, which is in total control of school capital projects.

The Maddaugh Road school will open nearly 18 months later than it was supposed to open. A sign on the property, which was cleared a year ago, states that the school would be ready to welcome students this September. Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

The lengthy delay in getting these projects underway is largely due to much higher construction costs than anticipated at the time they were announced. While that is a factor beyond control of the province, the reality is the process to build new schools or additions is encumbered by bureaucracy.

Another of the five delayed projects was announced by the former BC Liberal government in October, 2016. It said a new secondary school in the fast-growing Grandview Heights area would be built. Two years and four months later, a contract has yet to be awarded (as of Monday). The most recent new secondary school in Surrey, Clayton’s Salish Secondary, opened last September. It took two full years to build.

The Grandview Heights project will take just as long. Unlike Clayton, there isn’t even another secondary school there. The closest one is Earl Marriott on 16 Avenue, on the Surrey-White Rock boundary.

Assuming a contract is awarded soon, it won’t be open until the fall of 2021 at the earliest. Maybe the opening date can be co-ordinated with the date of the original announcement, so it can mark five full years between announcement and opening.

These bureaucratic delays affect communities. Cloverdale Community Association has called for a complete freeze on new development in Cloverdale and Clayton, other than infill, so infrastructure can start to catch up. In many ways, Grandview Heights is even further behind on infrastructure. As of yet, no one is calling for such a freeze there.

The province is also in complete control of health care funding. Health Minister Adrian Dix recently made an announcement about additional funds for senior care in Surrey, and said he will have more to say soon about plans for a new hospital.

While it’s good that the idea of a new hospital is on the radar, existing proposals for hospital renovations to improve emergency and diagnostic services are just as important. Once again, the bureaucracy is slowing down things.

The Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langley areas are the fastest-growing in the province, but provincial bureaucracy in a number of ministries is stifling speedy construction of overdue infrastructure.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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