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Rhyl and its Electric Light.

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Rhyl and its Electric Light. The Adjourned Government Inquiry. Astounding Admissions by an Official. Estimate-Making Up to Date. [BY OUR OWN REPORTER.] THE sensational de-noulsjment which occurred at the initial inquiry held by the Local Govern- ment Board into an application from ,*e R'hyl Urban Council to borrow £ 9,000 for eliactric light purposes, and which was reported in the "Pioneer," had wetted the appetites of the rate- payers for further sensational disclosures, and a large number of residents accordingly attended the adjourned inquiry on Tuesday before Mr Bicknell, L-. E. The expectations were not altogether un- fulfilled. It was evident the inspector had not much more -to say upon this business methods adopted by the Council, than he had given vent to on the first occasion, but throughout the in- quiry he was extremely sarcastic at the expense of some of the officials, and when the town surveyor explained the extraordinary system upon which the estimates for the scheme had been based, his astonishment was complete. As for the ratepayers in attendance, words fail to describe their feelings. But in the' end, the veteran town clerk, the hero of scores of such inquiries, won a vc- tory. "I've conducted inquiries since 1868, sr, and always been successful," ha said, turning a benign look upon the inspector. "And you've been successful now, Mr Row- lands," replied the inspector gaily, shutting up his book with a click. Then the proceedings broke up quite harmon- iously and peacefully. The Town Clerk, in opening the inquiry for the Council, said the application, as it now stood, was for sanction to a loan for electric lighting, of C9,567, and that, added to a sum of £2,233 for the refuse destructor, made a total of £ 11,800, They now wished to amend the figures, without increasing the loan, as the two works formed one scheme. At present £ 2,000 had been apportioned to the electric light un- dertaking as the cost of the building, but the town surveyor, who was the architect, and under whose superintendence this buildings had been carried out, thought they ought to charge one- half of the cost of the buildings ( £ 5,135)5 viz., Z2,568, to the electric liight, and also the sum of £7°°, being one-half this cost of the chimney and other works. With regard to the buildings, it was only fair to the consulting engineer to say that he had very little to do with their erection, which probably accounted for the small sum of £800, his original esti- mate. The total cost of the buildings was Z6,535, and his had now all the details of the various items spent. The Inspector (drily) What I should have had in the first instance. Mr Rowlands said that, as the, inspector re- marked at the last inquiry that the Zi,ooo placed under thtg heading of new roads, and which was divided between the refuse destruc- tor and the electric light works, would not be allowed to form part of fchte expenditure on the works, they wished to borrow the money for street improvements instead. Marsh-road and Victoria-road were developing, a considerable amount of property having been erected along both roads, and although they were the oldest public streets in the town, they were at the pre- sent moment quite unfit for the great amount of traffic over them. They asked that the repayment of the amount should be spread over a term of ten years. The speaker turned on the tap of sentiment. "We ask you, sir, to sympathise with us. We are not, looking round the room pathetically, a wealthy town. We aits under a tremendous responsibility, and we do our best to keep pace with the, times." The total cost of the works, Mr Rowlands re- marked, according to this amended figures, was Z25,585, and the balance of the loan to be ap- plied for was £ 10,335. Instead of applying now for Z9,565 for the electric light, they asked for £ 10,335, and instead of £2,233 for the refus3 destructor, £ 475 would suffice. The balance of £ 1,000 they put aside for the street improve- ments. Although the undertaking was such a formidable one, the Council were not disheart. ened. They had great faith in it. The Inspector (pleasantly) What, in this dust destructor? (Laughter.) Mr Rowlands: No, sir, the electric light. The refuse destructor, however, had been one of the bestt and most healthy speculations the town had gone in for. No, complaints of any kind were now received, and they had good reason to be satisfied with it from a sanitary point of view. MR TRENTHAM OBJECTS TO THE APPORTIONMENT. Mr Trentham, the consulting engineer, in answer to the inspector, said it was quite wron'g to bolster up the refuse destructor at this ex- pense of the electric light works. If they were starting the buildings afresh, I was quite con- fident they could be erected for £ 2,000. The Council's apportionment was totally unfair and misleading altogether. Mr Rowlands said the com mitt els had con- sidered the matter, and they did not think it fair for Mr Trentham to suppose ââ The Inspector interrupted. He did not want to enter into anythinlg1 of that kind. Mr Trent- ham, was prepared to account for £ 2,000, and no more. Now the, Council said, "You must account for more than £ 2,000; you must ac- count for a much larger sum." Mr Rowlands': We decided, sir, that we should ask you to be, judge of whether this cost of the buildings should be equally divided be- tween the two works, or whether you would accept Mr Titantham's figure. The Inspector said he, would not act as judge. All he wanted was a statement from some' one as to how the difference between Mr Trentham'si figures.1 and the town surveyor's was made up. After further discussion, the inspector gave the original figures up in despair. He said as long as they understood that the statement was an irregular one, hfe would shut the book up, and commence de novo. The inspector went into the figures supplied him by the surveyor as follows:âCost of buildings, £ 5,136; inclined: road, £556; chim- ney, £ 859; drains, £ 140; wafer supply, £ 42; I paving, £ 81; fences, £ 71; weighing machine, £ 147; gates, _f io; motor mill, 6170; and com- mission, £ 85. The Inspector spotted the word "commis- sion." I suppose that was for Mr Trentham, he asked. The Town Surveyor: No, sir; it was mine. The Inspector looked grave. The Council have perfect liberty, he went on to say, to give you commission out of current rate, but they have no right to give you commission out of loan. Salaried; officers must be paid out of cur- rent rates. You have no power to be paid out of the loan, and the Council ought to under- stand that. Mr Rowlands is. not a solicitor, and if you employ a solicitor to do legal work, then the Local Government Board will sanction a loan for the cost, but if Mr Rowlands did extra work, payment for those duties would have to come out of the rates. Mr J. H. Ellis observed that the architect's commission would have been more if they had employed one. The, Inspector: It may have betsn, but we cannot allow ,anything out of loan. The Inspector proceeded to investigate the original estimate. The first figuits was £ 1,863 for buildings. "How do you account for the enormous difference of £3,272 as between Z.5,135, the actual cost, and the estimated cost of £ 1*863? The Surveyor gave: his reasons seriatim. (I) Larger buildings; (2) additonal buildinigs; (3) increase an price of materials; (4) extra foun- dations. There were also such extras as a condensing pit in the electric station, wrought iron sliding doors to the destructor, temporary chimney, etc. The Inspector carfe-fully scanned the plans of the buildings. "Islee a little piece of wall here and the roof over it, about four feet. That's not much of an addition," he declared, amid laughter. Now, how much do you put down for that? Give, me a figure, and I'll double it for you. The amused ratepayers laughed again. "Did it cost £ "500?" The Surveyor (hesitatingly) No; about £400. Then I'll givte you tSoo, and see how it works out. (More laughter.) The water tank, £ 100; coal stores now used as men's room, £ 50; coal stores, £ 94; total, £ 1,044. "Now for the increased cost of materials. To meet that I will add 20 pisr cent. upon the £ 1,863; that will give you an additional £500. I will double all the other items, and even that will not bring the cost up to the 63,272. I have been perfectly fair with you all. â E XTRAO RD IN ARY IESTIMATES. The Surveyor (resignedly) The estimates in the first instance were far too low. The Inspector (sarcastically) Ybs, they must have- been underestimated very much indeed. (Laughter.) But that is no explanation of the enormous difference, and whether my Board will accept the figures, I don't know. I doubt whether it can be called estimating at all. The Surveyor here made a singular admis- sion I quite admit it cannot bI called: estimat- ing, because when the first estimate was made the plans were insufficient, and not finished. The Inspector: It's quite evident it's been mere guess work, and all I can say is that if I was, the surveyor I should not make any more guess work estimates. It is not fair to himself, because I bfelieve he can make an estimate as well as anybody else. The Surveyor further explained that the ori- ginal prids-s were put down for the guidance of the committee more than anything else. He was not instructed to prepare ths plans until after the, estimates W)2re: made. The Inspector: Upon what grounds did you make your estimates? The Surveyor: They were really madfc from sketches. The foundations for one thing were different to what we expected. Mr Elwy Williams, an ex-member of the Rhyl Council, asked whether it was usual for a prac. tical man to make an estimate, before testing th}2 foundations? The Surveyor assured Mr Williams that the ground was tested. At first he found clay. It was evident however that its nature varied' consider- ably, because immediately they commenced digging they came across peat. He had care- fully gone into the figures, and tiie estimate only came out at 6;1zd a cubic foot, and includ- ing everything it was under 8d. The Inspector: Well, certainly, that's not ex- pensive. Considering the class of foundation, I don't think it high. But a moment later Mr Elwy Williams dis- counted its; advantages by soliciting from the surveyor the fact that 6^d did not include the furnaces and the interior. As. a practical man, declared Mr Williams,'I think 6^3 d is very n gh, if it only includes tihl2 roof andi the walls. Mr J. H. Ellis, a member of the Council, tried- to retrieve --e position of affairs. The committee were certainly astonished at the amount of the tenders, considering the amount of the estimates, but as they were certain they could be reduced, the practical men on the Council went carefully into the specifications and quantities, and then, it was discovered that thlsy could not 'be reduced at all. They also attributed the increased amount to the delay of the Local Government Board (a smile ran round the table) in giving sanction to their application. The Inspector: Of course we shall have to bear the brunt. (Laughter.) The Inspector waxed sarcastic at the expanse of the practical men on the Council. Consider- ing how the estimates were madls up, the big difference when the tenders came in should not have surprised them, so very much. Then, upon investigation, they found that the first estimate was, worthless, and that thh contracors asked a reasonable price. Mr Elwy Williams pursued his cross-exami- nation of the surveyor, which the inspector de. scribed "as very much to the point," but on putting a question as to what real assistance the "practical men" on the Council wtere in the matter, he rather turned the tables on his inter- rogator by asserting that he was on the Council at the time himself, and had had a copy of the' "bills of quantiities." Mr Williams said, if his memory served him right, he had never seen the quantities, but the surveyor was positive on thb point. A question was put by Mr Silvester, a rate- payer, as to who was responsible for the ori- ginal estimate. He believlsd the Council were in the habit of doing their own work on the plba that it was cheaper; but he wasi .afraid it was much dearer in the long run. Unfortunately no answer was returned in the confusion. Mr Trentham defended himself on the ques- tion of low estimates. The £800 which had been mentioned was nevr intended to be a pro- portion of the co§t of the original buildings. It was an estimate for the additional expendi- ture rendered necessary by adding the electric light works to the refuse destructor, and ths in- creased size of boiler house. He had gone care- fully through the cube contents, and he found that the cost should have been vtery little in excess of Zi,ooo. The Surveyor said it was proposed to increase the height of the chimney from go to 120 feet high, and to alter the diameter from four feet to five feet six. Mr Trentham said he did not want any extra height at all. In going through his figures he incidentally remarked that £800 was manifestly insufficient for the new buildings, but the coun- cil were making additions all this time. His estimates, were further based on the total length of main being 2,590 yards, whereas the actual area was 6,189, which this inspector thought was a great difference. THE PHANTOM TRAMWAY. Mr Elwy Williams endeavoured to get at the exact loss suffered by the Council in pilsparing energy for what he called "the phantom tram- way." Mr Trentham was very cautious, but admit- ted that the Council spent an extra £2,200 in supplying extra plant to supply the Light Rail- way Company, but he added, "We should uave had to spl-nd a large proportion of that extra amount in the n'ear future to provide for ex- tensions." There were three schemes, continued the engineer, but he was interrupted by .e inspec- tor, who, said it appeared to him that these questions might have been asked by Mr Williams when a member of the Council, and not at an inquiry of that kind. "I won't stop you, but I think you should have madls yourself acquainted with these mat- ters before." Mr Williams vehemiently declared that he tried to prevent the Council spending all this monlsy. He asked them to use commonsense, but they would not listen to him,. They were, >edectrie,-light mad. (Laughter.) At first the Council proposed to spend 65,000; then it went up to £ 25,000. The Inspector: It occurs to mb that people who ask questions of this sort at an inquiry are not in the habit of attending their own meet- ings. (Laughter.) Mr Williams confessed that he gave up the task of reform in despair. The speaker on be- half of the ratepayers then thanked the inspec- tor for the object lesson he had given them on his first visit. It was high time expenditure should be stopped in Rhyl., A population of t.g,ooo was practically supported by visitors, and the lodging housei-keepers had a most precar- ious existence. The rate was 5s 6d, and it was high time the Local Government Board put their foot on this sort of thing. In acknowledging the compliment, the In- spector let fall a significant remark. He said, "Perhaps the Council will consider it wise to pull in their horns for the time being, and rest on their oars," a statement greeted with ap- plause. Air Bsrks (,a member of the Council) said even .at the present moment the works, large as they were, were within a measureable distallc: of their maximum power of output, and he asked the engineer whether it would not be riecesisary to make an extension in the near future. Mr Trentham said the Council had enough machinery to meet any increase during the next two yfsars (he probably excluded the tramway supply if required, although he did not say so), but during the forthcoming season they would its qui re an additional feeder for the centre of the town, which would cost £ 500. Proceeding further, the Inspector came across several items of over estimating, including one sum of Z588 for boilers and tipping platforms. It is quite refreshing to come across a saving like this, remarked the inspector, and there was a ripple of laughter. In dealing with the £ 1,000 required for street improvements, the Clerk was sharply questioned by Mr Elwy Williams as to why the Council were gaingl to the 'expense of making up the roads instead of the property owners. Mr Rowlands said the roads were old public highways, and had never been put in repair. Mr Williams said the Council were adopting a different policy wit., other property owners. The Clerk said that was in tl1)e case of private streets, and not public roads. The Inspector: X private street is not a pub- lic highway, and therefore cannot be repaired by this public. The Inspector said he now proposed to close the inquiry, as he was satisfied with thh figures that had been, supplied to him. Since the last inquiry he had ascertained that the district auditor had called the attention of the Council to the manner in which their accounts were kept, and had reported very much in the way that he had spoken last time. He hoped that the next time he held an inquiry at Rhyl Mr Rowlands would have the various details ready for him. Mr Rowlands I have attended evjsry inquiry in Rhyl since 1868, and I have always been, suc- cessful, and satisfied the inspectors. The Inspector: Well, you havis been success- ful this time as well. (Laughter.) The inquiry then closed with votes of thanks.

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