Good grief – will this never end? Pier problems persist. Completion date threatened.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 31, 2012  It was a tough night for the Pier – bad news galore and some serious cock ups as well.  A city council committee learned in considerable detail what the problems were with the turbine and learned as well that the actual construction of the pier will get a later start than planned.

It was a long meeting, individual interests intruded on the process, it became evident that a senior staff member didn’t have a firm grip on the file but there was a hint that there was some light at the end of the tunnel.

Stripped of the beams installed by the first contractor - the Burlington Pier sits naked waiting for beams made of steel that has been fully tested. That testing, which is essential just might delay the opening of the pier. And that wouldn't be a bad thing. That platform to the right is a working trestle that will be dismantled when the construction work is completed.

Lets start with the Pier.  The steel needed to build the deck with had to be returned because it did not meet the specifications.  Having had disastrous problems with the steel used in the first attempt to build a pier out into Lake Ontario the city decided it was not going to make that mistake again and hired a consulting firm to test every piece of steel that went to the fabricator.  Fabricators cut, weld and bend steel based on the design plans they are given.

A shipment of steel that went to the fabricator recently was tested, found deficient and was returned to the manufacturer.   The search then began for steel that would pass the tests from a North American supplier – it looked as if none could be found and that steel would have to be sourced from China – which would have meant a very significant delay.

Steel was found, a batch was sent to the fabricator, it passed the tests and so the contractor ordered all the steel needed.  Guess what?  CP rail went on strike, which meant using trucks to ship the steel.  Guess what?  All the people who used to use rail were now scrambling to get trucks so the contractor is still waiting for the steel to arrive.

And that is why we will not see any construction work being done on the building of the deck of the Pier that will reach out into Lake Ontario.

Scott Stewart, General Manager Community Services commented that “this project did not go as smoothly as it should have”.  He got that right – it has been a colossal and consistent mess that Stewart is trying to get back on track and on schedule – and the breaks are just not coming his way.

Stewart wasn’t with the city when the pier project started and he wasn’t all that involved during the city’s experience with the first contractor.  He is the point man on the project now and is doing all that can be done to get it to completion.  He isn’t getting the level of professionalism he needs from some of his staff.

The problems with the turbine are not helping either.

The delays in getting the steel beams in place does create problems.  Once the steel beams are in, the concrete has to be poured and that can become dicey in colder weather.  The hope – and that’s about all it is at this point – is that the weather will be mild in December so that the concrete can be poured.  If the concrete is not poured in December an opening date of June 2013, in time for Sound of Music, becomes difficult to achieve.

The Mayor, in his enthusiasm to see this project through, said many months ago that he looked forward to seeing the pier officially opened during Sound of Music in 2013.  It was a bit of local booster-ism and his way of showing his unqualified support for a project that has been nothing but problem after problem since the day it started but Goldring was committed to seeing it through to completion.

All those beams, in place but useless. They were removed and now the city waits for new steel beams so that construction can begin - again.

It might make some sense to begin preparing the public for an opening date beyond 2013.  Are we going to do this on time or are we going to do it right.  We certainly aren’t going to do it on budget.

Staff are being resolute on insisting that they do it right and that pressure from the community not result in short cuts being taken.

The engineering people are working on mitigation plans – those are the plans you put in place when it looks as if the original plans are not going to work out.

The contractors will now begin work on the front part of the pier, the apron section that leads up to the actual deck part of the project.  This is work that was going to be done later in the project but with no work that can be done installing steel beams the contractor will do whatever they can to show some progress.

The city met with the president of the construction company, Graham Infrastructure, to ensure that they fully understood and appreciated the situation the city faces.

No mention was made of any additional cost due to the delays in getting the kind of steel that is needed.

That’s the Pier part of the story.  The turbine is another part that we tell you elsewhere.  That one is both a real mess and a glaring failure on the part of the engineering staff.  Burlington Hydro doesn’t come out of this looking very good either.

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1 comment to Good grief – will this never end? Pier problems persist. Completion date threatened.

  • Lianne

    I am one of the people who leans more towards loathing the pier rather than being completely indifferent to it… and I think there are 2 large groups of people in Burlington: 1 large group that is fed up with the pier and want the whole thing scrapped, 1 large group who doesn’t care about the pier either way (in fact I’ll bet about half of the indifferent are indifferent because they don’t even KNOW about it) and then 1 teensy, tiny group who are in full support of it. Millions of dollars be damned, they want a shiny place to walk about on (even though they could easily take the trail to the lift bridge pier if they want to have a walk about). I mean, why are we even still talking about this? Shouldn’t it have been scrapped as too much trouble and too much money? I would really like for the indifferent crowd to choose a side… obviously I’d like for them to be against the pier, but if they’re for it at least we’d have a reason to still be building it!