Province's mobile paving plant delayed

The province's plan to get into the paving business has hit a speed bump.

Critics say plan was ill-conceived

The province's plan to get into the paving business has hit a speed bump.

A plan to purchase a mobile paving plant for $3.5 million has been delayed because parts of the machinery are missing and the plant still needs at least a month to be assembled.

The plant was supposed to be in place and operating by June 30. Transportation Minister Maurice Smith said the piece is coming.

"It's en route; as of Friday evening it was in New York state. It's coming and hopefully it will be here (early) this week," Smith said.

Late last year, the provincial government announced it was buying a mobile paving plant, saying it would save taxpayers millions every year. The government said private contractors were charging too much to pave rural roads.

Grant Feltmate, executive director of the Nova Scotia Road Builders Association, said he never believed the government could build roads at a lower cost than private companies, and these delays only add to the cost.

"We have less business for our guys," Feltmate said, "Plus, we feel, there's no question in our mind we can do it more effectively, cheaper and we think better."

Kevin Lacey, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said it was appropriate for the government to identify high tender prices, but it should not compete with existing businesses.

"With all of the problems Nova Scotia faces — highest taxes in all of Canada, education system that's in decline, healthcare with longer waiting lines — should we really be spending money on this plant right now? I think the answer to that is no," Lacey said. "This idea was rolling the dice with taxpayers' money from the very beginning."

Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d'Entremont said the opposition is skeptical about the government's road-work plans.

"We've heard reports it would probably take a number of weeks, if not a month, to get the plant up and running, to get some tests to make sure the quality of pave is up to the standard that Nova Scotia requires," d'Entremont said.

"So you're into mid-August before you're paving. You can only get so much done from that mid-August point until you shut it down in October."

Smith maintains buying the paving plant was the right decision. Even though paving season has been underway for months, the minister said regardless of the delays, all paving promised for this year will be done, even if it means issuing tenders for some of the work.