CBD project costs rocket

2013-09-09 00:00

NOT only must Pietermaritzburg businesses and residents contend with more delays in the upgrade of the CBD, but it has also emerged that the project’s cost has escalated by more than R7,5 million.

The first phase of the long-term Pietermaritzburg Urban Renewal Programme, which is scheduled to run until 2016 with the aim of beautifying the city, entails paving Chief Albert Luthuli Street near the city hall with brick.

The project was scheduled to be finished by July, but the city says construction is now envisaged to last until the end of September.

There was strong opposition to the project when it was announced, with residents and opposition parties questioning why the municipality was destroying a good road surface when there were other areas that required more attention.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said then that this was part of the city’s urban renewal project. “We know that initially this project was budgeted for R10 million, but now it has been escalated to R23 million, which is more than double the initial amount,” a source who works for the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) said.

He said Samrem was applying for access to information to establish how much of ratepayers’ money had been used thus far. He said they were taking the matter up with the Public Protector because the municipality had refused to give them information.

For Adrian van der Zandt, co-owner of Pizza Perfect, situated along Chief Albert Luthuli Street, another month’s delay is not good news for his small business.

“We have lost between R150 000 and R200 000 since this road construction started six months ago, and any delay will not help our business in any way,” he said.

Van der Zandt said their lawyers had told them there was no way of recouping the money lost because the construction was not taking place in front of their business.

The road construction is not only a nuisance to businesses, but also affects people travelling to work from the Vulindlela, Edendale and Imbali areas. Their frustration is that there is never a traffic officer present at the corner of Langalibalele and Chief Albert Luthuli streets to control traffic during the peak hours.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the project was long overdue, “and we anticipated that businesses were going to be affected on a temporary basis, but such [delays] come with development”.

“The works included the reconstruction of the road pavement layers, upgrading of sidewalks, new kerbs, landscaping and street furniture,” said Zuma.

He said they initially budgeted around R13 million, excluding VAT, for the project. This amount was subsequently adjusted to R17,9 million, he said, and not the R23 million quoted by Samrem.

“The estimates were based on visual inspections and in the absence of detailed topographical surveys, geotechnical information related to the existing road pavements, and reliable information related to existing underground services,” he said.

Zuma said the entire project was being carried out with grant funding from the KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department. He said the additional costs would also be covered by the department.

Zuma said the project commenced in mid-March, when a vast amount of existing services not indicated on plans were encountered and needed to be either relocated or carefully removed to avoid damage. “This activity impacted negatively on the construction sequence and ultimately the programme,” he said.

He said a budget deficit of about R2,6 million was incurred because of the delays.

Zuma said they anticipated that the project would be finished by the end of September.

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