Is Burlington going to see the turkey of the century on Thanksgiving of 2013?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 13, 2012  Project Update # 16 and comments the Mayor made at the Wednesday Community Services committee meeting aren’t as aligned as things are going to have to be if THE pier is to open as planned in 2013.

General Manager Scott Stewart in his 16th report to Council committee on the pier said: Total completion remains as reported April 2013, with deficiency close out and occupancy by June of 2013.

It is a truly attractive pier which will have cost the citizens a fortune but will open in 2013. Exactly when depends a lot on the kind of winter we have.

The Mayor, for the first time, began to hedge his bet and said the important thing was to have the pier done right – which now means without the wind turbine that was to be an “iconic” element of the pier.

“If we don’t open for the Sound of Music in 2013, then we can open on Canada Day.  And if not then, well during Rib Fest – maybe even Thanksgiving.  The thing we need to focus on is getting it right and doing it properly”, said the Mayor.  Those of us at the media table could not see if he had his fingers crossed as he spoke.

Councillor Meed Ward has been around this track before shot a hard look at General manager Scott Stewart and asked: “Is there any reason for delay that is not in this report?”  You know everything I know” replied Stewart.

These beams didn’t meet the specifications called for in the original contract for the pier and had to be taken out and put in storage while lawyers argue who was right and who was wrong. New beams that have passed more tests than an army recruit will arrive later in the month. Then the sound of jackhammers will fill the air.

Quality assurance and quality control is being used throughout every step of the way.  “We test when the steel arrives, we test during fabrication and we test when it comes out of the processes.”, said Stewart.

Councillor Dennison wanted to know if there were any changes in the pier?  “absolutely none” said Stewart, which is not quite true.  The win turbine isn’t in place and isn’t going to be.  There are structural changes that came out of the re-tendering process when new plans had to be prepared.

The expectation is the first of the steel beams will arrive the week of July 23rd.  During the week ahead the city will begin to mobilize equipment that is needed to offload the steel beams and to get them in place.  That probably means cranes and other heavy lifting equipment.  If there is a crane out there that is guaranteed not to fall over – Burlington has it on order.

This project is now a race to get to the point where concrete can be poured before temperatures dip to the point where concrete cannot be poured.

Walkway to the “instant beach” that just sort of appeared on the west side of the pier site has been put in place. There are dozens of small jobs that can be done now while the city waits for the arrival of the steel beams that form the base of the pier deck onto which concrete will be poured.

The focus now is on how much can be done now and how much can be done while the beams are being put in place.  Large contractors now have software that allows them to juggle things the way a guy in a hard hat couldn’t.  But the one thing no one can juggle is the weather and those who have worked on the water at this end of Lake Ontario will tell you that the lake changes late in September and with the wild temperature swings we have been experiencing all the software in the world isn’t going to help.

The tender fruit people in the Niagara region saw an early frost damage a lot of crop resulting in very few cherries on the market and peaches and pears getting close to harvest but not very much on the fruit trees.  If you’re going to enjoy peaches this summer – you’re going to pay for them.

The project remains on budget.  It’s just that this time it is a much bigger budget.  Costs are being monitored in a detailed cost tracking log.  The project has more minders than a Russian spy who has defected.

Thanksgiving eh?  Better late than never – not everyone would agree with that statement.

While the contractors involved in the project watch the weather and move as quickly as they can, another group of people pore over documents as the legal people get ready for what the lawyers call “discovery”, which is when each side of the argument exchange documents and get ready to examine witnesses under oath.  Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum will be a vital part of the city’s case, he is basically the only person left on staff who was heavily involved in the project.  Eichenbaum will spend many days in a room with lawyers asking question after question and producing document after document.  The city will want to maintain it did everything right and the contractors will want to use the documents to prove that the city made significant errors.

There are some who assume the city has a solid case and will win their claim for damages.  There are many in the construction community who will tell you that the case is not all that solid.

And if Eichenbaum’s  presentation at a city council committee meeting recently, where he took Council through a who did what and when during the wind  turbine decision, is any example of the testimony he is going to give – we might be in more trouble than we were prepared for when we sued the contractors and designers of the pier.

We might also never know who has to pay what.  Most people in the construction industry believe that once the discovery process is over the city will review what came out and might find themselves willing to accept an offer from the contractors.  That offer to settle will have a gag order attached to it and we will never know who paid what to whom.



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