City didn’t get what it went to court to get – but the award they did get wasn’t that shabby. However, we did pay for the pier twice.

The Pier 100By Pepper Parr

June 23, 2014


In the world of politics what matters most is the spin that can be put on news that is not all that good.  And in the world of politics there is a lot of news that is not that good.

Pier Aug 28, 2012 - beams going in.

Steel beams are swung into place during the second round of pier construction.

The city of Burlington held a media briefing this morning in which they announced that they had settled their disputes with the people they were suing over the delays in the construction of the Brant Street Pier.  They made it sound like a victory.

Interim city manager Pat Moyle explained that a pool of funds had been created and that the city was given $1.5 million from that pool of funds to cover their legal costs.

The mediated settlement, which has yet to be ratified, also said the city did not have to return $500,000 in a holdback they had on hand.

What the public has yet to learn is:

Who put money into the pool of funds?  The city said they didn’t put in any money.

Who were they holding back money from?  The city wouldn’t say.

All we got was an explanation as to what the city got – not a word about what they didn’t get which was the several million they had sued HSS for when they walked off the job when the determined the pier could not be built with the plans they were given.

After issuing the writs the city was given an alternative proposal from Zurich Insurance to complete the building of the pier for an increased amount.  The exact amount the insurance company wanted to complete the job was never very clear.

The idea of creating a pool of funds into which different companies would contribute and then see them distributed to the damaged parties is both creative and unique.  Of interest to the citizens of Burlington who have had to pay more than $6 million to Graham Infrastructure to strip away steel and put in new steel and pour new cents to complete the deck of the pier which opened officially just over a year ago.

The city is positioning this as a win – and to some degree it is.  They could have gotten whacked by the original contractor for the losses he experienced.

What the public does not know yet is who had to put money into the pool of funds and how much did the different parties put in.

And then – who was that money distributed to?

Let’s look at the parties to the dispute:  There were nine of them.

Harm Schilthuis and Sons Limited sued the  City of Burlington

City of Burlington sued Zurich Insurance Company (Bonding Company for HSS)

City of Burlington who sued HSS, EFCO, Aecom, Lombard, PV &V, Craneway (Insurance Claim)

City of Burlington sued Aecom

HSS sued Lombard, PV &V, City, Craneway (Insurance Claim)

Out of this crowd who is likely to have gotten money from the pool of funds that was created?  We know that the city got $1.5 million to cover their legal costs.

While there has not been a public statement sources indicate that Harm Schilthuis and Sons Limited did not contribute to the pool of funds and an unauthorized spokesperson said “Henry was happy”  Henry Schilthuis is the president of HSS.

Pier Structural steel at node Jan 16-13

Re bar in place ready for the concrete pour around the node that is now the observation platform. City skyline in the background

That leaves a bunch of insurance companies and AECOM.

We expect to know in the near future what Harm Schilthuis and Sons Limited was paid out of the pool of funds.

City Council was given a full briefing and “approved a settlement related to the Brant Street Pier that totals $2 million for the City of Burlington and more than pays for the city’s legal costs.”  That’s a pretty positive spin. No mention of the millions they sued HSS for because he quit the job he felt couldn’t be built with the plans he was given.

The plans came from Totten Sims Hubicki, (TSH) the architects of the pier who were bought out by AECOM.

“The job of the mediator was to try and facilitate a settlement between the parties, whom I believe all came to table with a willingness to resolve their differences,” said Interim City Manager Pat Moyle. 

“The settlement” explained Moyle “is still subject to the final approval of two of the parties’ boards, which the city expects will take place within 10 days from the date of settlement and execution of final releases. There is also a confidentiality agreement related to some of the terms.”

That gag order may prevent the public from ever knowing how much money went into the pool – not that knowing would make all that much difference.  What we now know for certain is that the city didn’t recover a dime of the cost for the second contractor.

Pier sign - hell frezes over

Did the city’s reputation take a hit during the pier construction fiasco? We made headlines that was certain. Now we have a pier – it is heavily used and was it worth the price?

Another condition that was released was this statement: “No contribution in any form to the settlement shall be deemed an admission of liability, and any such liability is denied.”

What the city has also not released is the amount they paid Morrison Hershfield for the quality assurance work and the amount paid the second project manager METTKO for the work they did to ensure they work was properly done the second time around.

The total cost of the Brant Street Pier construction is $14.4 million. (it is actually quite a bit higher than that). The Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program funded $4.4 million of this amount while Halton Region provided $2.5 million.

Does the settlement remove the pier as an election issue?  Let’s see what unfolds in the next few days.

When asked what went wrong with the project Mayor Goldring said “there are some projects that just don’t work out”.

City staff on the legal and financial side did a very good job.  Treasurer Joan Ford took part in the negotiations; if there is anyone who know what the numbers were – it was Ms Ford.

Former city manager Jeff Fielding was thanked for the “shuttle diplomacy” he did trying to get a deal from HSS.  That didn’t work.

Getting your legal fees paid and then told to go home isn’t much of a victory – not after turning down an opportunity in 2011 to have the pier built for a lot less than the $6million plus we had to pay Graham Infrastructure and then turning down an opportunity in 2013 to settle.

Pier - rebar being putr down Oct 9-12

A lot of steel, a lot of concrete – did the public get value for the money that was spent. And are there lessons to be learned – and will anyone be held accountable?

What appears to be clear – though not certain yet,  is that there was a problem with the design which moves the liability to AECOM and the TSH firm they purchased.

When some of the other parties make public statements the picture will become clearer.  The city did the right thing strategically and politically by putting out  a statement and putting the needed spin on their story.

The fact is – we paid for the pier twice.


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4 comments to City didn’t get what it went to court to get – but the award they did get wasn’t that shabby. However, we did pay for the pier twice.

  • “[W]e paid for the pier twice,” to get half the features that were intended. And for that we get mealy-mouthed explanations from our intrepid mayor like, “there are some projects that just don’t work out.” Wow, how lucky are we?

  • Gary Scobie

    I agreed we overpaid for a “nice to have” waterfront feature. It was designed to be 50% longer, with boat tie-ups to attract boaters to our fair city and provide some visual activity for pier walkers. It was also to have an animated wind turbine atop the open eggshell of the tower feature, providing power for the lights and added interest. It was to be so much more than it is. And it is indeed not heavily used.

    A much better view of our downtown waterfront can be gained by simply taking a nice stroll on the “real” pier, our canal, out to its end and bringing you binoculars along to scan the beach, Spencer Smith Park, the downtown shore and further east. And it costs nothing, except for its maintenance.

  • lyn holton

    “Heavily used?” I sure would like to see some stats to support that. Every time I’ve passed by the pier there are, at most, 10 or less people there. Special ‘events’ sure, more traffic. But otherwise, all in all, it seems a rather pricey ‘p.r.’ bauble for Burlington.

  • Joan Bell

    Burlingtonians deserve transparency and clarity on this matter. Yes this should be an election voting decision because it impacts our pocketbook. Only one person on Council feels we should know. Thank you Pepper for your voice on this issue. Burlington needs you & Gazette.