Just when does the public get to walk out onto the pier they have waited so long for and paid so much to see completed?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  May 8, 2013  If the city grants Graham Infrastructure “Substantial Performance” people will be able to walk out onto the pier – just like that.

Graham is the company that built the pier – actually they tore down the first version of the pier and then started all over again – but that’s another story. Everyone now wants to move on and hold the opening ceremonies with balloons and fireworks and speeches and pretend that all the problems were not our problems.  We will all become Jamaicans for a few hours and tell ourselves there are “No problems”

This “substantial performance is one of two conditions that have to be met before the pier can be opened to the public.

During debate at a council committee when city staff was giving council their FINAL pier update Councillor Dennison wanted to know just when the public was going to walk out on that concrete deck.  Staff had said that the Burlington Teen Tour Band would be the first “public” to use the pier which they thought was fitting and would certainly gladden the hearts of many in this city.

There was almost a cheer when city staff advised council they were making their FINAL project update on the Brant Street Pier.

Dennison poked away a bit and referred to the FINAL Pier Update and noted that once the city has granted Substantial Performance the pier can be used.

Substantial Performance means that in the eyes of the city the work on the pier is complete and the contractor turns it over to the city.  During construction the pier is in the hands of the contractor.

With “substantial performance” the contractor gets a significant payment – so you know they want to see this done.  Liability for the pier becomes the city’s problem and a deficiency list gets drawn up.

Every project has a deficiency list – some take years t get done.  They are usually always very small and it is the city that keeps after the contractor to ensure they are fixed.

All this leads up to – when will the pier be open to the public?  We know it will be open on the 14th – every dignitary in the Region will be out there.  It will be fun to watch former Mayor’s Cam Jackson and Rob McIsaac share the platform – not much love lost between those two.

McIsaac struggled to get the pier built and when the crane topped during construction Jackson wanted to blow the whole thing up.  The current administration moved heaven and earth to find a contractor to complete the job and sent millions more than anyone expected to see the job done.

The “mistake on the lake” will finally shed its lousy public image.

There are two big public events: June 14th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm which will be the plaque unveiling, recognition of the dignitaries and thanking them for giving us back our own money to build the pier.  This is when the Burlington Teen Tour Band will march smartly out to the end of the pier and then in a grand fashion march from the end forward to the front where the public will have gathered.

After all the speeches and the photo opportunities everyone retires to the Sound of Music VIP tent for a reception.

The beacon atop the node – cross braces have yet to go in and all the LED lights have yet to be put in place. Looks kind of nice as it is.

The day after – Saturday June 15th is the Community Opening.  This event will run from noon to 3:00 pm during which there will be “animation activities” for the public.  Details are still be worked out by two different city departments.  The “big shot” event is being handled by the city’s communications department and the Community Opening is being run by the city’s Special Events people.

They put on the Children’s Festival – a two-day event that is hugely popular and know how to make something work.  It will be interesting to see how well they do – and interesting as well to see how the two different departments do their jobs.

Looks cold and lonely out there? In a couple of weeks the railings will be in place and the public will strut out to the end of the pier and marvel at it all – and the cost as well.

But the really interesting thing is: WHEN WILL THE PUBLIC BE ABLE O WALK OUT ON THAT PIER?  Dennison isn’t on for waiting until the dignitaries are on hand.  If it safe and complete – then let the public out onto the thing is the view Dennison took at the last council committee meeting.

Will he be as insistent at Council later this month and will he have the support of his fellow council members?  Dennison could use a win on this one.  He got close to black- balled by his community over his plans to apply for a severance of his Lakeshore Road property and he took a shellacking over his view that Lakeshore Road should have separate bicycle lanes.

If he manages to get the public out on the pier during the first week of June – will all be forgiven?

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What will it look like and how do you get up on the platform: All is revealed.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  April 23, 2013.  The city is arranging for a media tour of the pier on May 30th at 4:30 in the afternoon.  If you’ve been a loyal reader of Our Burlington you’ve been able to follow every step of the construction process since the new contractor was named in back in 2011

This is what the node on the pier is going to look like when it is completed – by June 15th.  There will be stairs leading up to the upper level.  The beacon will be strung with LED lights that will be managed by a computer allowing for all kinds of variations.  The beacon and why is it there? That’s an embarrassing question.

Pictures of a construction site are just a snap shot of where he work was that day.  The end result is at times difficult to get a sense of.  If you look south on Brant Street towards the lake, the trees block the view and all you see now is a tall white structure and perhaps wonder why it is there.

If you look at the pier from the west, say from about where the Burlington Art Centre is located, you see what the end result is going to look like.

The major feature will be the node and the beacon that rises out of it.

Construction workers “fly in” the first of two pieces that will form the beacon that will sit atop the node.  Craig Stevens the project manager on this counts the days to the opening – there were 43 days to go when this picture was taken.

We have published pictures of the work week by week.

This architectural rendering will give you a glimpse of what that node is going to look like when it is completed – which is scheduled to be 40 some off days from now.

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One more step – pier looking better and better every day. Beacon – minus a wind turbine going in today.



By Pepper Parr

Each day a little bit more gets done.  This morning, when we were told it was going to be a lot warmer than it actually was, four of the metal structures that will form the “beacon”  at the top of the node that is on the pier were put in place.

It is something to watch as the crane helper move his hands to tell the crane operator where to swing the load that is at the end of the cable that swings the piece into place.

Riggers call this “flying” the pieces into place.

Two of four parts that will complete the beacon sitting atop the node on the Brant Street Pier opening during the Sound of Music Festival.

To ensure there is no damage to the pier, deck equipment with wheels have to wear socks.  These came in in black with red sides.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what two metals ribbons going up each side of the pier with two bands of stainless steel painted Burlington blue – there really is such a colour. It will be absolutely stunning – expensive but stunning

Late next week the first of the rails will arrive – they are going to be absolutely stunning.  All the lights are in place, the beacon itself will get finished off next week and have its lights put in place as well.

The device – a self-operated little bucket crane was being used to complete some of the electric parts.  What surprised some of the construction people were the “socks” the machine wore.  They are in place to prevent the wheels of the machine from damaging the surface of the pier deck.

It won’t be long before the Burlington Teen Tour Band is marching out to the end and coming back in towards the city, flags flying and instruments tooting and banging away.

Hopefully it will be warmer.

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City hall staff are in the process of learning how to herd cats: squabbling with council member over pier opening plans.



By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  April 16. 2013  I guess we should have expected this.  The pier will be open for the Sound of Music festival and the city is going to muscle in on their event to hold the opening.  There are going to be several openings- an Official one – which appears to have been cast in stone because the Pooh-Bahs have to get their Day Timers tuned up.

Councillor Craven wants every former Mayor drawing breath to be on hand.  This Official Opening is planned for the Friday, June 14th and then another opening on Saturday in the afternoon for the taxpayers that have to pay for the massive over run on the public purse to get the thing built.

We can see no word other than massive when you take something from $6.9 million up to more than $19 million – and it ain’t over yet.  But that’s an issue your city council is prepared to bury for as long as they can.

Right now they want to talk about fireworks, speeches and balloons and who gets to get their picture taken when.

The promenade leading to the pier entrance is getting a new surface. In the upper left you can see the mini-beach that got formed naturally – probably the only bonus citizens are going to get out of a very expensive project. It will look nice when it is done though.

You can hear the squabbling beginning.  When Councillor Dennison heard the schedule it didn’t take him long to tell staff that he “respectfully disagreed” with not allowing the public out on the pier on the Thursday – which is when the Sound of Music are going to do their kick off.

There is going to be a fireworks display and the pyrotechnics people have to be on the pier setting out the “explosives” they will use to get those fireworks into the air to ooh and aaah everyone.

That wasn’t going to stop Dennison – he wanted the public to be allowed to walk out on that pier just as soon as the ribbon was cut.

Dennison wasn’t going to let this one go – he kept at it and questioned staff on the details which are in that sort of coming together stage.

A newly installed light standard at the very end of the pier. The structure underneath the pier deck is a construction trestle that is now being taken out.

The Burlington Teen Tour Band is going to march out onto the pier and it looks as if they will be the “first” people that will actually be out over the water.  One can only wonder what will be going through their minds –  it is going to be a magnificent structure.

If the BTTB isn’t the first then the Sound of Music parade might be the first – staff were skinny on the details at a council committee meeting on Monday..

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Picture of the week – this is either a landing station for ET or an expensive pier.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON. April 5, 2013  This could be a landing pad for ET – or it could be the place where citizens of Burlington dumped close to $20 million.

$20 million and counting – and then there are the court cases and the legal costs.

It will look great when it’s officially opened in June – they are going to horn in on the Sound of Music Festival and hold the opening then when Spencer Smith Park will be packed with people.

This is – the picture of the week.


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Is the cheque going to be in the mail? Soon? City is not absolutely positive the money is going to arrive.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 29, 2013    It’s just one darn thing after another with that pier.  We get to see pretty pictures of what it’s going to look like and learn that there just might be a fireworks extravaganza opening night – right smack in the middle of the Sound of Music Festival and then there is “the letter”; the one city manager Jeff Fielding sent to the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport about the “amendment to the Funding Agreement”.

At a meeting September 6, 2012, according to the letter “the original funding agreement project was signed on February 12, 2004, amended first on March 17, 2006 and again on March 26, 2008, and that these funding agreements have expired.”


The letter goes on to point out that, according to the city “there are no funds, Provincial or Federal – for this project in the current budget.

Oh, really?

The addition to the city sign expressed the frustration of many Burlington citizens.

The letter continues: “The approved funding for this project was $6.75 million and $6.075 has been paid out  (90%).

A 10% hold back ($337,500 each from the federal and provincial governments) has yet to be paid.

The letter was sent January 30th of this year – no cheque yet.  Might Ottawa and Queen’s Park decide to refer us to the sign that was at one point set up at the construction site?

City manager Jeff Fielding and General manger Scott Stewart were in Ottawa recently – possibly making a collection call?

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Brant Street access to Spencer Smith Park limited; pier construction and public safety has area fenced off.


The yellow portion of this graphic outlines the area that is screened off to the public.  Entry into Spencer Smith Park will be from the stairway just to the west of the Waterfront hotel.  The fencing will stay in place until the end of May.


By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON. March 29, 2013  There are still a few holdouts – bits of snow that are in places where the sunshine has yet to get to – but Spring is in the air and that will draw thousands of people down to the waterfront, wearing sweaters perhaps but out in the sunshine and fresh air nevertheless.

Expect to see our pier looking like this during those summer evenings when darkness has settle upon the city. There won’t be fireworks every evening.

But the promenade leading from the foot of Brant Street into Spencer Smith Park will not be what you have been used to – that area has been closed off while construction people continue with their work getting the node in place, continuing with the installation of  the light fixtures that are already powered and preparing to install the Burlington Blue rails that will be a really striking feature of the pier when it opens in June.

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A collected sigh of relief was heard when the communications and events people talked about how the pier opening would be handled.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 26, 2013  The Spin Doctors are taking centre stage now that the last of the concrete on the pier deck has been poured.  The city manager has already hired people who specialize in spinning legal matters, which appears to be a skill set the communications people at city hall don’t have – so the city manager is going to set aside ten big ones to cover the cost of explaining some expected news on the legal side of getting that pier build and how we went from just under $7 million to just under $20 million.

The pier will be illuminated with lights that change their pattern and their colour whenever the software tells them to change.  The fireworks to the right is part of the Sound of Music budget.

There is good news though.  Staff is getting absolutely giddy and talking about opening the pier in 67 days and planning for that event.  People from the events department and the communications people are moving to centre stage to make it all happen.

An artists rendering of what the completed pier is going to look like.  Those brown rails will be painted Burlington blue.  The caissons that hold the pier up will also be illuminated.

On the construction side things are going great.  There is an artist’s rendering of what it is going to look like when you are able to walk out to the end.

Some of the light standards have been erected and they are powered up.

The public got told that there is going to be a computer application that will control the lights that will adorn the pier and the beacon that is to be installed – no wind turbine however, that got thrown under the bus when the city’s Director of engineering forgot to read the manual and didn’t know what had been installed in terms of electric equipment.

Craig Stevens, the go between for the city and the contractor, told a council committee meeting that the software that runs the lights will be able to do almost anything.  “As Stevens put it, “If you can think it we can blink it”.

Expect to see some weird light patterns coming from that pier during the first six months while the techies get the hang of the software.  The beacon will look like a lighthouse on the horizon.  It will certainly change the waterfront view of the city.

That yellow patch will be shutdown to repair the promenade that will lead to the pier entrance.

The promenade running from Lakeshore Road down to the start of the pier will be closed for a number of weeks while that section of the walkway is repaired.  The heavy trucks that ran in and out did quite a bit of damage and the walkway to the pier has to match the look of the concrete on the pier.

Light standards are being installed and are already powered up

While the snafus on getting the pier built is a story yet to be told – the news today is that what we are paying a King’s ransom for, is going to look very nice and it will do us all very proud.  There is some tinkering to be done; no one is sure quite yet just how the lights on the beacon will glow but if the ones being installed now don’t work – new ones will get put in their place.

It doesn’t look quite complete without a turbine at the top of that beacon – one of those missed opportunities.  The brown coloured rails will be done in what is known as Burlington blue.

It will take the city as much as a year to get used to the thing and in time they will come to love it and forget about the outrageous cost.  There might be some reckoning come election time but the only people who any blame can be attached to are the Mayor and Councillors Taylor, Dennison and Craven – they were there for most of the messy stuff.

For the moment – revel in what we are going to be using in the very near future.

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Council members adjusting their sails for the change in the direction of the winds; spin doctors blowing hard soon.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 11, 2013  The need for more sophisticated corporation communications is being driven by the realization that the time has come to tell the citizens of the city just what did happen at the foot of Brant Street with the construction of the pier.

When you are really guilty you hire the best lawyer you can afford and forget about the old, reliable but not too bright family lawyer.

And that’s where Burlington is.  When the city manager admitted that he is looking for communications people who can handle delicate situations; something that calls for more than his in-house people can handle – you know there is hard news coming.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven in his newsletter to his constituents says that the pier is on time and that it will probably open in June and goes on to say: “The bad news is that the legal wrangling continues over what went wrong and who is responsible.”“The bad news is that the legal wrangling continues over what went wrong and who was responsible.”

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is the first to tell his constituents what’s about to happen to them – it isn’t going to be pretty.

Craven was a member of Council when many of the decisions were made and all of the Significant Seven were at the horse shoe when the decision was made to re-tender the construction job original given to Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and eventually hired Graham Infrastructure at a significantly higher price.

The city did have an opportunity to settle this matter as recently as less than a month ago – they chose not to allow the city manager or their lawyers to talk settlement.  Does the city still have the same lawyers?  Or has a decision been made to send them packing?

No one is saying very much at this point – so one has to beat the bushes and read between the lines; but there is something going on out there.

Councillor Dennison talks about the “Grand” opening.  He’s going to take the highest road he can find – BUT, he was there when it all began.  Don’t let him forget that.

It will be interesting to hear what Councillor Taylor says when he is given an opportunity to comment.  Don’t expect any one of them to issue a media release.  They are going to hunker down and hope that the “communications specialists can cover for them.

Might be a good time to go to the Councillor Meed Ward web site and listen to the comments she made during the election campaign that put her in office.  She was the only one who wanted the city to work things out with  Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd.

Do you get it now?  There is more.The issue is over the design of the original pier and the compromises that were made with the design when the 180 metre length proved to be too expensive and it got cut back to the current 130 metres.  There were short cuts made – that proved to be too short for Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd.

Add to that the issue as to whether the construction work came under rules in place to build a bridge.  That’s an arcane, complex  difference – but it just might be what the city loses its case over.  The people at city hall who made those decision are no longer there – most just moved on to another municipality.  The only one left is Tom Eichenbaum and he is certainly taking the heat these days. And it is going to get hotter – that’s why the “communications” specialists are being hired.

Do you get it now?  There’s more.

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And just how much spin do you get for $10,000 – probably not enough. It’s beginning to get interesting at the bottom of Brant Street.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  March 8, 2013  The city manager is reported to have put out a Request for Proposals on supplying of communications services to the city as they begin to prepare to tell the public about the status of the legal problems related to the construction of the Brant Street pier and the various law suits that are currently in the process of getting ready for a trial.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, the one council member who wanted to continue discussions with Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd.,  the contractor that walked off the job in early 2010 after doing everything they could to resolve the problems related to the construction,  which many feel began to come to the surface when the crane doing some work on the site toppled and some of the steel beams were badly bent.

The contractor had problems with this project the day he walked onto the site.

While the messy part of the discussions with the contractor took place during the Cam Jackson  council, Rick Goldring, the Mayor who replaced him, had to make decisions of his own to not continue with Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and put out a new tender which was awarded to Graham Infrastructure.

Goldring and his council had more than one opportunity to resolve the differences and bring a fresh approach to the construction project.  At the time the contractor, Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., and the city were less than $3 million apart.    The increased cost of completing the pier and the legal costs exceed that $3 million by a considerable margin.

The construction is coming along very well and short of something cataclysmic the pier will be officially opened in June, perhaps as part of the Sound of Music Festival.

The node that will have an observation deck as well as a beacon that will soar 12 metres into the air is well underway. Railings that will prevent people from falling over are being fabricated – all should be ready for a Sound of Music festival opening.

Construction is on time – on budget, so they say – but there are all kinds of expenses being racked up that are not being talked about.

The most recent is a suggested $10,000 that wold come from the city manager’s budget for “communications services”, related to legal matters about the pier.

The legal spat between the city and Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. is now at the discovery stage where more than half a dozen companies are involved.  The process of Examination for Discovery, which is when each side gets to see information the other side has as they prepare for a trial.

It is not unusual for the parties to, after having looked at the documents, decide that they should think in terms of talking a settlement rather than go through an expensive lengthy trial.

Tom Eichenbaum, Burlington’s Director of Engineering is a vital part of both the city’s claim against Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and its defense of the claim the contractor is making against the city. It is not a pleasant time for Eichenbaum.

Discover hearings have been going on for the last month and got extended recently when Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., asked to be able to question the city’s Director of Engineering at more length.

It is believed there was one attempt to get into settlement discussions and that the opportunity to do so was presented to city council but they declined.

It is reported that city solicitor, Nancy Shea Nicol, told council that there was “no smoking gun” and that is believed to be true.  However there does appear to be a consistent number of incidents which when linked together amounts to a preponderance of evidence that does not look all that good for the city’s case.

The argument appears to be focusing on the design of the pier which was done by a local firm Totten Sims Hubicki (TSH) who also served as the project managers.  TSH was replaced by AECOM, a multi-national firm that does business in more than 115 countries.  Their taking over the original designer made them the designers of the pier and the contract manager – a basic conflict of interest that Meed Ward pointed out during her election campaign.

Our Burlington is advised that the legal fees for one of the parties for the month of February amounted to more than $360,000 – if that is what one party is paying one can assume that the city’s legal bill is in the same range.  And they haven’t gotten to trial yet.

With the city now looking for communications talent one can only assume that something is up.  You don’t bring in specialized communications people unless you’ve got a specialized communications problem.

Donna Kell, the city’s Manager of Public Affairs is accredited with the Canadian Public Relations Society, which makes her a  certified communications specialist – and that doesn’t seem to be enough for her to take on this communications task.

Clearly the city is getting ready to tell at least part of the story as it relates to the two court cases; the city is suing Henry Schilthuis and Sons Limited, and they in turn are suing the city.

Councillor Meed Ward may find herself in a situation that only she will be amused with if the spin the city wants to put on the pier and its legal problems looks like an attempt to hide something.

Meed Ward keeps in touch with the 596 fans on her Facebook page and has asked them what they think of all this.  Her comment was: “Since the city launched the lawsuit on the pier, many discussions relating to the previous contractor and design engineer; the details of the options to finish the pier; and the legal strategy and associated fees have been behind closed doors. When the lawsuit reaches resolution, what information are you looking for?

Penny Hersh:  I have to question a City Manager who feels it is appropriate to spend an additional $10,000.00 for a consultant to SPIN the truth that residents and taxpayers have a right to know. If the City is transparent this should not even be a consideration.

Russ Campbell : Is this one of those “nice-to-haves” in the city’s budget? Just shows how city hall wastes money. If we are farming out communications will we be cutting back on communications staff: “The city currently has a full-time manager of public affairs.

Kim Lalonde:  Curious as to how the building department didn’t keep better tabs on the project before it began and during to avoid the mistakes that happened ? Also the phrase you get what you pay for comes to mind since the cheapest bid was accepted on the original project.

Daniel Silverthorne:  Don’t waste 10,000 dollars….the day Jesus comes back is the day the pier will be completed.

Clearly not a lot of support for spending any more money – but the money will be spent.  The question that lurks out there is this:  who tipped off the Post.  This type of investigative reporting isn’t their style, they don’t cover some of the council committee meetings and are never seen at any of the advisory committee meetings.

The Post has been tipped off in the past and it has come up for discussion at closed council meetings.

What does all this mean?  Stick around – it is just beginning to get interesting – but you are going to have to listen closely and read between the lines.  The city will make all kinds of noise with the “grand” opening of the pier and slip in small news items late at night or on the weekend “explaining” what went wrong and how much it is going to cost.  When those questions come forward ask: Why didn’t you settle when you had the opportunity?  Which council member do you think was the loudest to argue against any settlement?

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Unless there is really poopy weather for a significant stretch of time – the Pier will open during Sound Of Music.


Craig Stevens, Project Manager for the city on the construction of the Brant Street poses in front of the node that will rise 4 metres from the deck of the pier and have a 12 metre beacon on top. Stevens, who oversaw the construction of the Performing Arts Centre believes the pier will be ready to be opened during the Sound of Music Festival – IF the weather cooperates.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. February 19, 2013  In the cold winter weather we don’t get out as often which means we don’t get to the waterfront and we don’t get to see the work that is getting done to have THE  pier ready for an official opening during the Sound of Music Festival which is about four months away.

The only impediment now is weather.  And that so far has been a really doozy up and down situation.  In October the schedule lost eleven day: “eleven days in October” exclaimed Craig Steven’s, the city’s man on the project.

November was good as was December with basically nothing lost but January was not as good –there were five days lost and so far in February they have lost four days.  “In January: said Stevens, ”we had temperatures that ranged from + 16 to -27. It’s all but impossible to plan – but plan they do and they go forward as well.

Early stage construction of the four metre high node that will sit atop the pier deck and have a 12 metre beacon sitting on top. The beacon is at this point purely decorative – it was to house the wind turbine that the city backed out of last year.

The first part of the node is in place.  They are now putting the re bar in and getting ready to pour concrete around the base of a structure that will rise four metres and have a beacon atop it that will rise 12 metres for a total height of 16 metres.  It will be quite something to see when it is completed.

The beacon part of the node is being fabricated now at a shop in Kitchener where it will go through a final quality control check and be shipped to Burlington and put in place.

The node will have stairs that wind around the side leading to the observation deck.

Brad Cassidy, the Graham Infrastructure guy who is the man you have to get past if you want to get out on the pier stands with one of the balustrades that will line the pier. The bottom piece of aluminum that will be coated with Burlington blue powder is a rubbing streak with the top piece the actual top of the rail. The balustrades will be bolted to the deck and have steel wire cable strands running through the holes drilled in the balustrade. There will be 200 of the things on the pier.

The feature that will make that pier safe for everyone is the balustrades that will be quite high and be made of galvanized steel which will give them a silver-grey look and aluminum rail and rubbing streak that will be painted with a powder that will be adhered to the surface and done in what construction people in this city like to call Burlington blue.

They will have cable strung through several levels preventing anyone from falling over the side.  There will be more than 200 of these stanchions placed around the pier.  Falling over just won’t be possible – jumping over – well that’s another matter.  Bets are being placed on which high school gets to make that claim to fame first.

The balustrades – what most people call the railings have gone through several modifications which raised the question: why design decisions at this point; which brought the response: “We’ve never gotten this far before”, said Stevens, and indeed after more than six years of work and close to $20 million tax dollars spent – this is as far as construction of the pier has ever gotten.

It is as cold as it looks out on the pier on a windy winter day.  The last of the concrete forming work is being done around the node that will have a stairway winding up the side leading to a deck four metres above the pier platform.

The node that is now being put together will have a large beacon placed on top of it.  That beacon was to be part of the support for the win turbine that got trashed by city council when no one appeared to be able to figure out where the power to light up the pier at night was going to come from or how it would be paid for.  A major opportunity to save serious dollars over the life of the pier and to make an important environmental statement was lost.

What we used to call the mini-beach on the west shore side of the pier is not so mini anymore. If this thing keeps growing many Burlingtonians just might get the boat dock they thought was going to be part of the pier.

At the base of the pier, in close to the shore,  the mini-beach grows a little more each month.  While the lake water level is low right now, once the construction trestle is taken out there might be accumulation of more sand.  The city might actually get a boat dock without having to spend a ton of money.

Meanwhile on the legal front the Examination for Discovery process continues.  Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., the contractor who is suing the city, and who is in return being sued by the city,  has been examined and the Director of engineering for Burlington has gone through part of his Examination.  Those proceedings have been adjourned until the week of the 25th of February.

If the temperature out on the pier is cold – the temperature in the Examination for Discovery room is not quite frozen but certainly very frosty.  Some painful discoveries are being made.

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Things are getting a little hurried at city hall; legal department is scurrying around to get reports into the hand of Councillors.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 4th, 2013  A confidential report on the pier being built at the foot of Brant Street was scheduled for a meeting of the Budget and Corporate Services Committee tomorrow.

The Development and Infrastructure Committee meeting for the first time in its new format was advised this afternoon that the confidential report in the pier would be discussed at the evening portion of the Infrastructure and Development committee – which got the ire of Councillor John Taylor going – he didn’t want to go into a closed session of council to discuss a report that he has not yet read.

Usually an easy man to get along with – but grumpy, grumpy, grumpy when reports are not ready for him to read and review. John Taylor does nothing on the fly – legal department is going to have to smooth his ruffled feathers.

Councillor Taylor can get touchy at times with sudden changes.  While he groused city solicit Nancy Shea Nicol took him aside and explained that she would not be giving the a report because there were “some financials” that were not complete but that she would be giving a verbal report that would be followed up by the full document.

OK – but what’s the rush?  The report wasn’t due until Tuesday – tomorrow.  Is there something going on out there that the public has not been told about?

You bet your bippy there is.  The city is has entered the discovery process that has each of the parties in the dispute asking each other questions based on the documentation that has been provided.

That’s when the full story comes into focus and that is when lawyers ask themselves – is this something we should try to settle now or is this something we are solid on so we will go to trial?

The reason for the hurrying

and scurrying is that someone wants to talk settlement.

The reason for the hurrying and scurrying is that someone wants to talk settlement.  Who – that would be guessing.  Who has the most to lose?   The city is in the middle of all this – battling both Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and AECOM for the princely sum of $7.5 million.  If they lose council members will have a lot of explaining to do – not something you want to get into when you are into the second half of their term of office.

Having spent a princely sum on legal fees to date the city has to be looking at any offer to settle that might have been made.

Last week the city disclosed that it had spent $2.1 million on fighting the Nelson Aggregate application for an additional permit to quarry on the Mt. Nemo plateau.  That was a good fight that took many, many months of hearings.  The cost of the legal stuff on the pier will make the Nelson hearings look like chump change.

Next week, Henry Schilthuis undergoes discovery as does the city’s Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum.  Ir is interesting to note that neither Phil Kelly or Tim Commisso are part of the discovery process – both were key players and on the city’s payroll when the problems with the toppling crane and the concrete pour that failed took place.

It’s getting interesting down at city hall.  Different Councillors are beginning to talk casually about where the developer is wrong and that the city has a solid case.

Stay tuned.

As for the actual construction of the pier – that’s going great.  There is every reason to expect the thing to open officially during the Sound of Music festivities in June of this year.  The contractor (one of four who bid on the pier)

Early morning view of the pier in September.  Some time was lost in October due to weather but November and December weather was decent enough to get some work done.  Rails and the node that will have the tower with the observation deck in place are now into fabrication.

who won the tender with a bid of  $6,429.700 is on time – on budget wouldn’t apply to this job because of the nifty way the city has handled the amount that was saved when the wind turbine got thrown under the bus at a Council meeting.



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Report provides Committee with the status of the Reserve for contingencies; that is money to fight the legal battle over the pier.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  December 5,2012    It was a very short report; just a single page from the Finance department to the Budget and Corporate Services Committee.  It was a For Information only report with no specific purpose other than to let out some numbers to the Committee while they were in a closed session.

It had no relevance to the Strategic Plan; it was a report to tell what the city was probably going to have to come up with to pay for Human Resource related matters, basically handling the cost of letting people go and any of those messy sexual harassment cases that crop up from time to time.  The public has no idea how many of these there might be – that’s not public information but it should be.  We may not have any such cases.

Here is what appears in the public documents.

“The report provides Committee with the status of the Reserve for contingencies as at September 30, 2012. The commitments disclosed in this report for legal matters are legal staff’s best estimates based on litigation matters outstanding at this time. Human Resource department staff provide estimates for HR related matters and Corporate matter estimates are provided by other City staff as required. The report provides a comparison of commitments to the prior quarter.”

As you walk out onto the pier and pause to look back you get a sense of the relationship the pier is going to have to the city. At this point I was less than half way out.

Looking west from less than half way out the pier.

Looking east you can barely see where the Riviera Motel used to be. Five years from now there will be a 22 storey high rise; a four star hotel and a smaller seven storey condominium. The waterfront is never going to be the same.

The Human Resources matters are a part of running a large corporation; people get hired and some get fired and settling with an employee being let go costs.

The legal stuff is something different.  The city’s corporate counsel takes the position that it is unwise to let the “other side” know how much is being spent on legal fees, which is why the public has no idea how much has been spent or is likely to be spent on the several legal fights the city is handling related to the construction of the pier.

There are two cases; one against the construction company, Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and the other against the company responsible for the design of the pier; Aecom.

In each case the city has made a claim and now has to defend the claim they made in a court room.  Both cases are in what is known as the Discovery process,  during which each side gets to ask the other all kinds of questions based for the most part on documents they have obtained from each other.

Burlington’s key witness is expected to be Tom Eichenbaum, the current Director of Engineering, who is the only senior member of the original pier development team left on staff.

The city has had its problems in the past with Eichenbaum’s performance on the wind turbine part of the pier, when council decided not to have a wind turbine produce the power that would light up the pier at night.

Because the city always hires outside counsel to fight their legal battles, lawyers are hired.  Everyone complains about how much the lawyers cost but we pay them nevertheless.  Those lawyers are now getting a closer look at each other’s case and sometime in the spring they should be ready to take this case to trial – unless of course someone decides to offer to settle a claim.

Council  members will have asked Nancy Shea-Nicol, the city’s in-house lawyer, for what the lawyers she hired have to say about what the city’s case look like.

Now you know why this was a closed door meeting.

The construction, or perhaps we should say, re-construction of the pier, is coming along fine.  The Mayor was taken out for a look-see on Monday and the contractors report that a spring opening is still very possible but everything depends on the kind of weather we have.

The wind on the pier last Friday was brutal – everyone was sent home.  But the mild weather is allowing for the pouring of concrete.  All the decks are complete except for the area that will have the “node” which is the part that reaches up into the air two levels. (This was the part that was to have the wind turbine at the top.)

The node drawings have been approved and the fabrication work is being done; instillation and the pouring of the last of the concrete is scheduled for January.

The drawings for the rails have been approved and fabrication of those will will begin before the end of the year.  The rail design is very sleek and will give the pier a very modern look.

As one stands out on the pier and looks back into the city you get a sense of what it is going to be like to walk out to the end when the project is open to the public.

While it has cost a fortune – three times the original planned cost – it will change the way people see their city and the way the rest of the world sees Burlington.

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Lasting impressions from the people that will end up paying for the pier that is far from on time and even further from being on budget.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 20, 2012   Burlington invited elementary students from across the city to take part in a draw that would have seven of them take part in a Lasting Impressions ceremony at Spencer Smith Park to commemorate the milestones that mark the building of the Brant Street Pier.

Few of those seven young people have any idea as to what they were taking part in on a chilly Saturday afternoon.  With the pier still under construction in the background, seven of the 444 people who entered the draw to be participants in the Lasting Impression project sat to have their pictures taken.

Each of these seven secured a bolt in a plate that will be part of the pier structure. They also had their hand prints taken which will become part of a “Lasting Impression” that will be on permanent public display when the pier is opened, which will be, according to the Mayor, “sometime in 2013”  A proud parent sits behind each participant.

Once they were introduced each of the seven inserted a large bolt into a metal plate that will be placed on the pier later in the week.

Brooklyn Humphries, 9, puts her signature on the plate into which she had tightened a bolt that will be used in the construction of the pier.  She was one of seven young people who took part in a ceremony that created “Lasting Impressions”

While the plate with the seven bolts in it will get covered with concrete, it is still there for eternity, which for this pier is said to be about 75 years.

The city wanted there to be something more public and so they had each of the young people get their hands coated in ink and a hand print made with their signature on the sheet of paper as well.

Evan Sebok’s  Mom gives him some help getting a signature on the sheet of paper with his hand prints on it.

The imprints will be digitally manipulated  to produce a hand print that will be part of pedestal that will be set out on the pier where the millions that visit the site will get to see it.

The objective is to have each of the children create a print of their hands in a plaster mold that would then be used to create hand prints that would be mounted on a podium when the pier is officially opened.

The city is now at the point where news on the  progress on the pier seems to be consistently good but the Mayor has learned not to trap himself into a date and now says that the pier “will be completed sometime in 2013”.

Craig Stevens, city project manager for the pier and Mayor Goldrin, the man who takes all the political heat for the project delay, met with two of seven young people who placed a bolt in a steel plate that will be used in the construction of the pier.

No mention was made of the $15 million + that the city has spent so far on the project nor did the Mayor tell those seven young people that they will be the ones paying for the pier for many years to come.

The city hosted Lasting Impressions, a draw that attracted 444 entries from children aged four to 13. The seven chosen children, youngest to oldest, one from each ward and one to represent the Mayor were: Evan Sebok, 4; Charlie Sibley, 6;  Carter Needham, 7;  Brooklyn Humphries, 9; Grace Hodgson, 10; Logan Szyiko, 10 and  Eva Moreau, 11.

They probably have no idea just where those hand prints are going to go and how many people will see them.

Creating the event was really very creative on the part of the city.  And they moved very quickly to revise a good idea that didn’t turn out to be possible into an idea that was very possible.

Anyone who was at the ceremony could have had their hands inked and made in impression on a large piece of canvas that will be on display in a city building.

While the seven hand prints will become a part of the pier there will also be a large canvas that had the hand prints of the members of the public that were watching the ceremony.  The canvas will probably get placed somewhere in city hall.  The turnout wasn’t very large.  There had been some rain earlier in the day – the public doesn’t show up for things like that all that often.


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It is going to be an absolutely beautiful pier and you are going to love every minute you get to spend on it.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 29, 2012  I was out on the Pier Friday afternoon – I mean out on the real pier, not just the part that is built on land – I was out there over the water.  I wasn’t out on the trestle that is in place for heavy equipment to use.  I was out there, right over the water, and I can tell you – you’re going to love the place when you get your chance to walk out on that Pier.

I realize I’m beginning to sound like a public relations flack on the Pier.  It is a significant project that has had every problem you can imagine and it is going to cost close to three times the original price.  We will tell you the full story once we have all the pieces.  For now – we want to tell you about a Pier you are going to be immensely proud of and one you will want to walk out onto frequently.  The Mayor’s office is already penciling in some plans for the opening ceremony.

Yes, the thing is costing us a fortune – and the spending isn’t over yet.  And we’ve not heard a word about how much we are spending on the lawyers.  They must just love this case.

But the focus today is on the pier and its progress.  It is taking forever.  When I was on the site there weren’t very many people around.  The construction crew had been sent home and given a chance to get an early start on what looks like a great fall weekend.  Some bolts – 450 of the things – needed to continue with the construction work weren’t on the site – so the crew got sent home.

The site is cold in the mornings now – the constructions workers wear hoods over their helmets. The fall weather is going to cut into the time the crews can work.  They now work Saturday’s and they will be working Sundays as they get into the fall.  That is going to mean getting a waiver on Sunday work and there will be people at the Waterfront Hotel who won’t like the sound of a construction crew on a Sunday morning after a wedding reception.

Brad Cassidy, current project coordinator, serving as a fill in for the project manager, shows how thick the concrete base will be. Up to half way between his knee and his ankle.

Next week there will be more steel on site and the hope is that come the end of the week the concrete people will begin to actually pour concrete.

I wasn’t quite sure what the construction people meant when they talked about pier caps so city project manager Craig Stevens did a drawing on a scrap of paper.  The wavy line is the water, the horizontal lines are the deck.  Immediately beneath the deck is the re-bar and the concrete that will be put in place to bind the deck to the caissons.

The pier is built atop seven sets of caissons. Atop each of these caissons they build a pier cap, which is what keeps the deck and the caissons together.  Concrete and re bar – loads of the stuff get laid down.  The concrete forms are put in place and then concrete poured.

Concrete can’t be poured in cold, cold weather.  They can use propane tanks and large tarps to shelter the decks but it gets very windy out there.  The real hope is that we be favoured with an “Indian Summer” and that the crews are able to get a lot of work done in the next 30 to 45 days.

That’s where we are now.  The going forward part is dependent on the weather and while everyone hopes and many think the weather will hold – that’s something the construction crews have no control over.

Those bars at the front of the picture are where the first set of seven caissons is located.  A cap will be built atop the caissons and then concrete poured.  The second pier cap will go in seven diaphragms up – the diaphragms are those cross beams keeping the girders apart.

The last of the steel is expected to be on site the second week of November but we may see that steel sitting out there over the winter.

The project has had its problems on the city side of things but there are problems as well on the contractor’s side.  Doug Dillon, the Graham Infrastructure Project Manager is no longer with the company and that has much of the day to day load falling on the shoulders of Brad Cassidy, a nice guy who certainly has the capacity to grow into a Project Manager.  He is currently the Project Coordinator.  Jim Rosien is going to serve as the Project Manager for now.  Rosien is also the General Manager for Graham in eastern Canada – so the top man on this project is working his way through a very full plate.  Not a confidence inspiring situation.

The contractor, Graham Infrastructure, has had six project managers cycle through this site – far, far too many.  The city staff are at times close to spitting out teeth in frustration.

Quality Control and Quality Assurance are being a little overdone but don’t expect the city to tell you that. Everyone is making darn sure that there are no mistakes.

The beacon section of the Pier is being put together and the railing that will be in place is having small adjustments to the design done.  We might be able to show you pictures of those parts in the near future.

Right now – the focus is on the weather – will it be a mild fall and early winter?  If it is – we will see a Sound of Music opening.  If there is snow soon – all bets are off.

On the legal side – things are moving along like molasses in December. The next step, Examination for Discovery was scheduled to start in November, has now been moved back to late January because of a conflict with a vacation schedule.  This time it was a senior city staffer that decided it was a good time to take a vacation and January is a nice time to go south.  Problem is that this staffer is a key element in the city’s case.  There are some people at city hall very, very ticked off.  This sort of thing wouldn’t be tolerated in the private sector.

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It was that kind of week – short with many people still away some thought it would be slow. Not quite.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 9, 2012  The Mayor had lunch with Eric the Great, the chief cheese at the hospital; who picked up the tab?

Mayor Goldring lunched with hospital President Eric Vandewall – who picked up the tab?

Many people in the city shuddered when the sod was turned in Hamilton for the new Navistar plant that will open there in 2013.  That was our lunch Hamilton was eating.

Navistar has been in Burlington for more than 50 years.  It began as International Harvester- the road is named after them.  They were one of the biggest farm implement manufacturers in the world.

They felt they needed to move out of Burlington and were looking at Mississauga as a possible new location when smart people in Hamilton – saw the opportunity and moved really fast and scooped the opportunity.  They are now going to be in a new building sometime in 2014.

In 1958, Harvester International poured in nearly $12 million to build the 215,000 sq.-ft. building that still stands today. A 38,000 sq.-ft. butler’s building has since been attached to the original edifice to store extra product.

The Burlington location was chosen for its close proximity to the QEW and major highways, Pearson International Airport and the C.N.R. railway tracks for swift shipment across the nation.  Nothing about the transportation part of the equation has changed – but as a Navistar official recently told the Hamilton Spectator: wasn’t on Navistar’s site selection radar the “can do” attitude of city officials changed that.

“Navistar was looking for a location and our location was not on the list of preferred sites,” he said. “We met with the mayor on one day’s notice and he said the city would do everything possible to make this happen. We do developments in many places, but Hamilton has shown it is truly the place to invest. Hamilton is clearly a municipality that wants investment and can deliver service.”

Here’s to another 50 years of Navistar in the community, said an official at the time. So much for that statement.

A good one got away on us – and no one has yet given a really good reason for that happening.

No shortage of land in this city for an operation of that size.  With the plant go 60 some odd jobs – Burlington gets left with a site that will be vacant for some time.  We didn’t do so good on the economic development front on this one.

The city has three senior positions they want to fill.  A new fire chief, a new Director of transit, a new third general manager.  The plan apparently is to bring in the third general manager first and then have that person oversee the new hires

The city ran three really small pictures of the finalist in the public art selection for the front of the Performing Arts Centre.  The pictures, which appeared as part of an advertisement in City Update, a supplement to a local newspaper, were smaller than a business card.  Not sure why they bothered – or did they think that was as much as the public could handle?

One of the two Chef’s that will do a cooking duel at the Farmer’s Market next Friday was announced during the week.

Barry Imber got really creative and set up a duel between two of the Chef’s over at Spencer’s Restaurant on the Waterfront that will take place at the Farmer’s Market September 14th.

A strictly business crowd may not be a place for a children’s party service provider to drum up some business – but Laura Martin keeps saying – they all know people who have children.

Laura Martin, operator of a home daycare business as well as the lady who runs a children’s party business,  told her Facebook friends: “I’m going to my first Business Networking event tonight, I’m excited! Maybe I’ll see some of you there.”  The Business in Burlington group, that meets once a month at the Waterfront Hotel asked men to show up in Bermuda shorts – that request fell a little short but Laura Martin was there networking like crazy.

A city Council committee got the final report from the Heritage Advisory Committee – expect to see some conflict with the way the Planning Department view the heritage file and the recommendations in the report – which is a solid step forward – but probably not the final say on the subject.

There was enough steel on the pier for the construction crews to work a Saturday shift.  Progress on the construction side.  Nothing that we can report yet on the legal side.

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Solid progress on pier construction; progress too on the legal side – both costing us a fortune.


By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 4, 2012  If you were able to get out onto the pier last week you would have seen the crane, which has computers inside that basically make it almost impossible to topple the thing, – and that’s a relief.

We’ve been down this road before haven’t we? This time there has been so much Quality Control and Quality Assurance that it can’t fail – can it? The pieces that are horizontal between the girders are called diaphragms.  Those bolt like things sticking up are there to hold the concrete in place while it settles and cures.

The crane “flys”  girders into place while construction workers bolt them together and then set in place steel pieces they call diaphragms – these are the cross piece that keep the long girders apart.

The pier consists of fourteen segments – each segment having three girders. Segments 1 and 2 are now complete and there is enough steel on site to get segments three and four done by this week.

The schedule calls for two and at times three segments to be completed each week.  The steel fabrication problems have all been worked out and there is now a steady flow of fabricated steel that has gone through the contractors Quality Control and the city’s Quality Assurance processes on the way to the site.

These are the guys that are on top of everything on the site. Brad Cassidy of Graham Infrastructure, Tom Eichenbaum, Director of engineering, Craig Stevens, city project manager on this project and an unidentified Graham Infrastructure employee.

With four of the 14 segments done – leaves 10 to do.  At two a week – that part should be done in five weeks, which gets us to the first week of October.   That still leaves the node part to be built but the contractors expect to be able to build that part while the girders are being put into place.

Putting the steel girders into place and getting the diaphragms into place however, is just part of the job.

Then there is the  central node – which is the device that will support the beacon tower that was to house the windmill generator.  That windmill got thrown overboard, but the beacon is still very much a part of the project.  This is the device that will have hundreds of LED lights that come on each evening to illuminate the pier and make it visible for miles around.

We asked Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum just how bright the lights will be at night and he “guestimated”  they would be twice as bright as the lights inside the Performing Arts Centre are when that building is lit up at night.

While crew are working on segments six, seven and eight, form workers will be setting up the forms that will allow the pouring of concrete.

At full tilt we will see steel workers flying the beams into place, construction workers bolting them together at one location on the pier while forms are put in place at another and concrete poured at yet another –  all at the same time.

Concrete needs 28 days to fully cure. Testing is done at days five and six to ensure it was a good pour.

Brad Cassidy of Graham Infrastructure talks to crew member who will work on bolting parts into place.

It is now “theoretically possible”  to have the girders in place and the concrete poured before the site is shut down for the winter.

It is also “theoretically possible for the crews to work through much of the winter “if” the winter this year is as mild as it was last winter.

Craig Steven’s, the city’s project manager for the pier worked on the construction of the Performing Arts Centre and was able to work right through the winter of 2010. “We basically didn’t have a winter to deal with” and the structure they were working on was protected to a considerable degree by the parking garage next door.

However, those who work on projects that reach out into Lake Ontario will tell you that the “lake changes in September – it just becomes a different place and you can’t count on it to let you do much construction.”

We are just going to have to wait and see – for those who live or work close to the water, they have some idea as to how the lake behaves.

Brad Cassidy, Graham Infrastructure project manager on the site points out the project has been accident free. “We are very tight when it comes to safety on our project.  It doesn’t pay to cut corners and the men on this project know that”, said Cassidy.

Steel was available from the fabricator before the start of the holiday weekend but the contractor, with input from the city, decided not to bring it in while RibFest was taking place; they didn’t want to disrupt that event.  When you’re on the site, at least the day I was there, I felt no sense of “let’s get this done”.  There wasn’t the sound of jackhammers pounding away or men swarming over parts and bolting them together.  It was all kind  of easy going and laid back.

A crane with a computer program that basically prevent the thing from toppling over, wraps slings around each girder and flys them into position where they are bolted into place. Trick work that requires skilled operators.

If we are counting – and everyone is counting – we are 40 weeks out from completion based on the city manager Jeff Fielding’s numbers; 41 weeks out if we are using the first number the Mayor had – but he moved back and got himself to the point where he was mentioning Thanksgiving of 2013.

The only answer anyone should be giving is – “wait and see”.  But it is coming together.

While the construction part of the pier shows real progress so does the legal side of the project.  The lawyers are doing their discovery work, each side is getting a deeper look at what the other side has  – it isn’t a pretty picture.

The city talks of the pier coming in at something over $15 million.  By the time this is all wrapped up – think in terms of $20 million and you won’t see that figure until well into the next administration – somewhere around 2016 – maybe even longer and when the bills has to be approved – it will be done as quietly as possible.

The pier will look great, we will all be very proud of the thing – but we will also have paid far, far too much for what we got.  But hey – it’s only your money.

It’s development and construction will have gone through the MacIsaac administration, the Jackson administration, and the Goldring administration; we will see it settled in the Meed Ward administration and she will tell everyone that it needn’t have been as expensive as it was.  And she will be right.

Editorial note:  In this piece we mention a Meed Ward administration which in the fullness of time we expect to see.  The numerous comments sent to us via Facebook and directly seem to take the impression that we are saying Meed Ward will be the NEXT administration.  We wouldn’t go that far.  She will wear the Chain of Office but not in 2014 – Goldring has got that, if he wants it.


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Actual construction of the pier will get underway this week as girders are bolted together and lifted into place.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 20, 2012  Just over a year ago, the city agreed to requests to delay the due date for the re-tendering of the construction of the Pier at the foot of Brant Street.

The contract was awarded to Graham Infrastructure, a Calgary based company that partnered with an Ontario firm to take on the task of building a pier that had been plagued with problems almost from the day the idea was conceived.

The flat bed truck arrived just after noon last Friday

Between now and then the job was to remove the steel that had been installed a few years ago. There has been some fixing up here and there on the pier but no real construction work because the steel needed was not available and when the steel needed was available it had to go through levels of testing that were far beyond the norm for this type of bridge construction work.

But – the steel did arrive and the fabricators did overcome the concerns the quality control and quality assurance people had and the city now has ten girders on site with five more due on Monday which means actual construction can begin.

The crane that will lift the girders and lower them into place is on site. Some wonder if it came with a guarantee that it wouldn’t topple over.

The crane that will lift girders in place where they can be bolted together  is on site and will begin swinging them  into place on Monday.

The construction work gets done in segments with steel going into place, then form work being done for the concrete pour and then the actual pouring of the concrete.

On site almost daily is Burlington’s Jimmy Tapp checking on the progress. Here he talks with Pier Project Manager Craig Stevens.

After that it is a case of the construction people doing their best and hoping that the weather will cooperate.

Once poured, concrete needs 28 days to cure properly with all kinds of testing along the way.

Some of that concrete pouring is due to be done late in October and into November when weather will be the critical factor.

Last year the construction people will tell you – we didn’t even have a winter,   Will the same weather conditions prevail this winter  There are a lot of people hoping so, but the construction people aren’t betting on it.

The two guys that are going to see this project through are Craig Stevens, Pier Project Manager for the city and Eric Carriere who works with Graham Infrastructure.

What everyone now knows is that the pier is under construction and with a bit of a break from the weather we will see it opened in 2013.  The Festivals and Events people at city hall might have already started planning the party – maybe it will be a civic holiday.

Stevens, who did project management work on the Performing Arts Centre says “the weather was so good, the winter we worked on that project, that we were able to go right through and not shut down for the winter.”

That building was protected quite a bit because it was tucked in behind another building whereas the pier is exposed to the wind coming off the lake.

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Welds on steel beams for the pier are now passing the rigid inspections; fabricators will have everything done by mid-September.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 15, 2012  It has been a challenge but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is going to get brighter and brighter. Five of the 42 beams needed to complete the building of the Pier at the foot of Brant Street are now on site and up to nine more will be delivered this week.

The plan is to have a minimum of five beams delivered every week until all 42 are on site and ready for installation.

With the nine that are scheduled – we say scheduled because they first have to pass a very rigorous inspection on Wednesday, the 15th, there will be enough steel for some of the erection work to be started.  The crane needed to do the erection work will be in place early next week.

General Manager Scott Stewart with Deb Franke of AJ Braun and Craig Stevens discuss the welding of beams for the Pier. The progress schedule is top of mind for all three. One of the beams being welded is shown.

During a site inspection at the fabrication plant last week,  city General Manager Scott Stewart, Project Manager for Corporate Strategic Initiatives, Craig Stevens and I traveled to Kitchener to get a firsthand look at the work being done and to inspect the quality logs.

Almost the first question Stewart had of Deb Franke, the woman running A. J. Braun, one of three companies welding the beams,  was – “do you have a grip on the problems now and do you feel you are going to be able to get the fabricated steel out the door and onto the trucks on the schedule we have put in place? .

“I think so”replied Franke, “but I want to wait until Wednesday of next week to be absolutely sure.”

That Wednesday is today.  There is a lot riding on the inspection which is very rigorous.  But if all the welding work passes it will indicate that the fabricators have overcome the problems they were having.  At one point the inspector failed all four beams one fabricator had produced – it was that bad.

The problems that are being worked through now go back to the shipment of steel plate that came in early in February that was rejected by the company doing the quality assurance work for the city.  Unfortunately city hall wasn’t as transparent as they could have been and should have been with the public about having to order new steel.  City Manager  Jeff Fielding was recently quoted as admitting staff had erred in not informing council back in February or March that it had some concerns.

A J Braun, a Kitchener company doing much of the welding for the beams that will be used to create the deck for the pier has every certificate imaginable. If certificates mean anything – these people are qualified to do the job.

Staff  has decided they will provide updates on the pier every three weeks, instead of every six weeks.  Why not provide an update when you have new information?

The kind of steel plate needed to build the pier is not manufactured in Hamilton.  The first shipment came from a country outside Canada.  It did not pass the quality control tests.

The second shipment came from two different steel plate manufacturers in North America.  Once the plates – which measured 40 feet wide 80 feet long – were sourced they had to be transported. That’s when CP Rail went on strike.  Getting a truck to transport the steel turned out not to be an option  – first there wasn’t much in the way of truck transport available and our steel could only be transported in daylight hours because of the length of the load.

City General Manager Scott Stewart said at the time that there wasn’t a problem that hasn’t managed to find its way into this project.  Many believe there is a book in this experience.  Opinion appears to be divided on whether the book should be written as a comedy or a tragedy.

As soon as the steel that was sourced from two mills in North America, it went to Brannon Steel in Brampton for cutting.  We are talking about steel plate that is 7/8th of an inch thick and starts out as 40×80 foot in size.

When the plate is cut it goes to the fabricators.  That’s when a new set of problems cropped up.  It is vital that the welds on the steel be perfect – and that isn’t easily achieved.  Its very technical and called for a level of perfection not normally called for in the construction field but, because these beams are going to carry a very heavy load of concrete that is poured once all the beams are bolted together – they have to be solid.

Every beam has 19 pages of documentation. General Manager Scott Stewart on the left and Project Manager Craig Stevens look over the reports that set out who did what when and how long it took to get the job done.

The city learned just how solid when a crane on the site during the first attempt at building the pier toppled over.  That’s when it became evident that welds weren’t holding and that the tensility of the steel was not good enough.  The tensile strength is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled.  The city learned just how much tensility was needed when the crane toppled and at that time – there wasn’t enough.

Resource Industrial Group;  A J. Braun and Bellcamp are now involved in the welding.  Each shop do their own quality control with Herschfield Morrison doing the quality assurance on behalf of the city.

Every weld on every beam is inspected. Here, a beam with markings from the inspector is shown. Nothing is being left to chance.

At one point the inspectors sent back four beams that did not pass the tests – and that put the wind right up the you know what, at city hall.  This project was never going to get done at this rate.

Traditionally one out of every five welds is inspected  – this project has 100% inspection – they look at everything.

B3 – the problem beam.. Getting the welds done so they would pass quality assurance was easier said than done. Deb Franke, chief cheese at AJ Braun, one of three companies doing the welding work take Scott Stewart and Craig Stevens through the problems.

Deb Franke will tell you about beam B3 – it was a problem and had to be re-welded a number of times before they got it right.

Each welding shop does its own Quality Control – but it has to get past the Quality Assurance inspectors who are tough, tough, tough.  Their job is to find something wrong and sometimes they don`t want to stop until they do find something wrong.

There are short studs, set a couple of inches apart, that are welded to each beam – they are in place to hold the concrete when it is poured.  An inspector puts a long pipe on a stud and bends it.  If all the studs do is bend bend and the welds don’t pop – it passes the test.  If the weld pops – the stud fails.  Now here is where we get a peek at just how rigorous this testing is.  Two of the Nelson studs are bent for each test.  If they pass – the beam is OK.

If one of the welds pops, that is it doesn`t hold, the next test is done to four studs.  If any one of the four pops, the next test is 8 studs are bent, if anyone of them – fails, well you can see where this is going.  Nothing is being left to chance.

There was one occasion when the inspectors basically shut down the A.J.Braun shop while they went through everything – the beams they were expecting passed.

Time and again the Quality Control inspectors would turn down a beam because the problems with the quality of the weld.  There was one particular beam that seemed to be nothing but trouble for Deb Franke at A.J. Braun, a fabricator in Kitchener that had bid on the very first tender put out for the pier back in 2005.

Franke was very familiar with the project. `We had hoped to be a sub-contractor on that first attempt but we didn’t make the cut then.  Seven years later Braun is the lead player in the team that is fabricating the beams along with two other fabricators.

Here, Craig Stevens, Project Manager for the Pier and Deb Franke head of AJ Braun, the lead company on the welding side of the project are discussing B3, the problem beam.

Deb Franke was one of four daughters – `we suspected one of us was going to end up at the fabrication plant.  Tucked away in the corner of her office is one of those pink construction helmets that Franke never wears – she doesn`t have to do cute to make her point.  This is a no nonsense, get to the point and lets solve the problem kind of woman.  Her shop works weekend shifts until this project sees the last beam go out the door.

When the beams have passed the welding inspection – they are both x-rayed and put through a magnetic particle test.  The machine that does this is quite small but it is a vitsal part of the quality process and it has to have its own power supply.

A.J. Braun is doing all the railings for the pier as well.  This is a line of fabrication they have a lot of experience with and they don`t see any potential for delays once all the beams are out of the galvanizers.

For Deb Franke, this project has been quite an experience.  She isn’t the kind of person one expects to see at a fabrication plant.  The business was owned by her father, Walt Bathe, who wasn’t  able to keep up with the work load when he became ill.  Deb found herself moving from rubber manufacturing into welding and shaping steel and aluminum mostly for the highway industry.

“We have learned so much on this contract” says Franke,  “that we are now able to bid on jobs we didn’t know enough about before.  We are now bidding on twice as many jobs as before because of this experience. We’ve learned a lot about how to improve quality control and are a better company because of this experience.”

At least someone is getting something out of the delays the city of Burlington has experienced.

Each of the 42 beams has extensive documentation.  Every beam is given a number and is a part of a particular segment of the pier.

For each beam there are 19 pages of documentation that note every step taken; time in and time out of the shop; the results of each of the tests with notations showing which employee did the job.

If all goes well, the city will have the last of the beams at the construction site by the middle of September.

Craig Stevens, Project Manager on this one, serves as the right hand man for General Manager Stewart.  The two talk several times a day.  Stevens was heavily involved with the construction of the Performing Arts Centre and during his 24 years with the city he has been involved in Central Library Expansion, Brant Hills Community Centre and Branch Library Expansion and Renovation, Angela Coughlan Pool Expansion and Renovation, Aldershot Pool Expansion and Renovation, Aldershot Arena Expansion and Renovation, Seniors Centre Expansion and Renovation, Appleby Ice Centre Twinning and now the Pier. Except for the pier every project Stevens has been in on were completed on time and on budget.

Stevens,  who has a  degree in Landscape Architecture and hold a Project Manager Professional, PMP,  began his career with  Parks and Open Space.  He was hands on with the Paletta Waterfront Park, City View Park Master Plan and our Waterfront Trail.  The value of the projects he has been involved in exceeds  $100M – which is quite a bit more than the city pays him.

Monitoring progress on close to an hourly basis at times,  is what keeps Stevens busy and on the pier project is has gotten really messy – and this one isn’t over yet.

Wednesday, this  morning at 5:30 am the inspectors were at all three welding companies to inspect three beams at each location.  If they all pass, and they are expected to – they then get shipped off to the galvanizer where 6 mm of molten zinc coating is applied to every beam and then they are loaded on a truck and brought to Burlington.

The crane used to do the erecting so that the parts can be bolted together will be on site – and the city can see their pier being built – finally.

There is surely some way for the city to celebrate the arrival of that final beam.


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One singe solitary girder arrived – we need 39 of the things. It was all all gussied up with a fresh coat of zinc galvanization.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 5th, 2012   I wasn’t in town on Friday, so I don’t know if the Burlington Teen Tour Band came marching down Brant Street to greet the flatbed truck that had the single girder and 95 additional parts that are going to be used to get us to the point where we are actually building a Pier.

I don’t know if the Mayor was on hand – I think he is in Newfoundland – talk about getting as far away from your problems as you can, but I digress.  The girder is there – the pictures tell that story.

It arrived Friday forenoon; the construction crew off loaded the steel and closed down for the weekend.

It arrived, quietly apparently on Friday before noon when everyone was thinking about getting away for the long weekend. But it is here and there is the promise of more to come real soon.

There is just the one girder  – not sure why just the one – was that all they had ready?   Hmmm.  The full story surrounding the delays in getting the steel we needed and then getting it through all the tests will have to wait for another time.  All that can be said today is that the whole truth and nothing but the truth wasn’t told.  We do have a problem with transparency in this city.

But let’s be positive.

More girders are expected next week.  We need a total of 39 of them to complete the Pier and sometime next week, once we have this holiday weekend behind us – the real world will present itself again and we will listen to what city hall has to say is the game plan this time.

The pathway  built to access the “instant beach” that has been created to the west of the pier, snuggled up against the Spencer Smith Park promenade, will be open and available for Michele Benoit to walk ashore, when she finishes her swim across Lake Ontario swim August 18th – that should be the first major event in which the Pier plays a part.

So that too is progress.

If the weather we are experiencing now holds through September and into the fall we just might be able to make up the time that was lost in the Spring and Summer.

City Hall has decided that we are to get Updates every three weeks instead of the scheduled every six weeks.  We should get an update whenever there is something the public should know.  It’s amazing that city hall will have relevant information sitting on their desks and keep it there until there is a scheduled Update.

But let’s stop carping and spend the summer evening wandering by the Pier and watching the girders being dropped into place and the bolts pulled in tightly.  When the crane arrives to lift the girders can we assume that it won’t fall over and have us starting all over – again.



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