There's a good news/bad news situation with the Pioneer Manor bed redevelopment project.
Although its total projected cost has jumped by 42 per cent to almost $93 million, the City of Greater Sudbury's share of the expense has been almost halved to $16.7 million thanks to a provincial funding boost.
“This is a great win for the city,” Pioneer Manor director Aaron Archibald told Sudbury.com following Monday’s finance and administrative committee meeting of city council.
During the meeting, the city's elected officials approved a build contract alongside a new total project budget of $92,972,553, for which a financing plan will come forward later this year.
Although the province has pledged $76.2 million toward the project, they’re doing so over a period of 25 years, meaning the city has had to borrow funds to pay for it.
Last year, the city borrowed $59.9 million for the project.
The Pioneer Manor bed redevelopment project consists of the construction of a five-storey 160-bed wing at the city’s long-term care facility on Notre Dame Avenue.
Although it’s a 160-bed addition the net bed expansion will be 11, bumping Pioneer Manor's total bed count from 433 to its new 444.
In the shift to the new wing, 90 rooms (affecting 149 beds) in the existing building will be vacated, with residents shifting from the old building, which opened in 1972, to a new building where they will have more space and modern accommodations.
The new building will consist of 160 private rooms, of which 100 will have private bathrooms and 60 will have shared bathrooms.
A construction tender for the project closed on July 5, revealing M. Sullivan & Son Ltd. as the lone bidder, at $80.5 million. They are based in Arnprior, west of Ottawa.
With furniture fixtures and equipment, project contingency and other “soft” costs added, the total bumps up to the $93-million price tag city council approved on Monday.
This is an almost $29-million jump from the $63.9-million budget city council approved for the projrect in 2021.
“The project increase for Pioneer Manor is not an isolated or local phenomenon, indicative of the high cost for construction,” according to Archibald’s report.
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti flagged the lone bid as “cause for concern” during Monday’s meeting, which was a sentiment Archibald agreed with.
“Any time that there’s only one bid, I would say there’s cause for concern,” Archibald said, noting that multiple bidders pulled out at the last minute. Reasons provided included such things as project value, bidders being unable to fit it into their current workload, inability to meet timelines, and issues with the terms and conditions.
The winning bidder was able to offer a construction cost in line with that of other long-term care projects in the 160-bed range, he added.
The lone bid is something the city is paying “close attention to,” city CAO Ed Archer said, adding they’ll be looking into whether the terms and conditions they’re able to alter are too restrictive. However, he said that the issue could also be the fact there are generally favourable market conditions in which there’s a lot of available work to choose from.
When the Pioneer Manor bed expansion project was estimated at $63.9 million in October 2021, the city was projected to spend $30 million on it, with the balance coming from the province.
Since that time, the province revised its Long-Term Care Home Capital Development Funding Policy to “expedite the construction of new long-term care beds, or the renovation of existing ones,” according to a municipal report, which freed up more funding.
As a result, the province’s share of the project jumped by $42.2 million to its current $76.2 million. While the project’s total cost increased by 42 per cent, the province’s share of the total cost jumped from covering 53 per cent to 82 per cent.
The city’s elected officials will receive a report on the project’s potential financial implications later this year.
The city plans on submitting a construction approval request to the Ministry of Long-Term Care by no later than Aug. 11, and anticipate a response by the end of August.
Construction is slated to begin in late autumn, with regular updates to city council provided publicly through city council and committee meetings throughout the process. It is expected to open by late 2025 or early 2026.
In addition to funding a greater portion of the Pioneer Manor bed redevelopment project, the province has also been boosting the long-term care facility’s staffing levels.
This year, a provincially funded staffing boost will increase direct care by 39,000 hours per year and allied health professional hours by 1,037. In the past few years, provincially funded staff boosts such as this have added 45 full-time positions to Pioneer Manor.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.