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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