Pier contractor tells his side of the story with grace and dignity; believes the problems could have and should have been avoided.

The Pier 100By Pepper Parr

June 26, 2014


Henry Schilthuis got his turn to tell the public what the Brant Street Pier settlement was all about.  His picture was a little different than that of the Mayor and interim city manager Pat Moyle, who was acting as a spokesperson for the city.

“Quite frankly” said Schilthuis, in a prepared statement “ we believe this process could have and should have been avoided. We did what we had to do to protect our company, and feel vindicated in all we have done to achieve the settlement. We wish the people of Burlington much enjoyment of their waterfront.”

S  Henry at his desk

Henry Schilthuis works from a nondescript office in Ancaster continuing the hard work, honest delivery approach of the 60 year old family firm.

There were numerous occasions, when the dispute could have been settled.  Former Mayor Jackson never liked the pier – it was a former Mayor Rob MacIsaac initiative, and anything that had MacIsaac’s finger prints on it, was not something Jackson could digest.  He advised newly installed Mayor Goldring to tear the thing down in 2010

The settlement is complex, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who the winner was in all this.

The city sued HSS for $10 million – they didn’t see a dime of that money – despite the Mayor assuring the public on several occasions that the city was going to get back every penny.   There were a number of council members, who were adamant throughout the past three years, that the city had a strong case and would prevail.

Councillors Craven, Taylor and Dennison who were at the table, when the pier idea was first proposed, didn’t say all that much in public during the 2011 and 2012 council meetings.  There were a number, far too many, closed sessions during which council and its legal advisers had long conversations behind closed doors.

Pier girder work all 3 in picture

It was a much more professional team on the city side, when the second attempt to build the pier started. Nothing was left to chance and the hard questions were asked every step of the way. Here city manager Scott Stewart and Craig Stevens  meet with the steel beam fabricators to ensure that the job gets done right.

When the Post made a Freedom of Information request the city objected, but quickly saw the stupidity behind that move and relented – letting the public know, that they had spent $1.3 million on legal fees to date.

The city recovered $1.5 million and is going to be allowed to keep $500,000 in hold back funds it has.  This is all the city will see from the three law suits it filed.  They sought $10 million from AECOM their project managers; they sought $10 million from HSS and they sought $3.5 million from Zurich Insurance, the HSS bonding company.

The pool of funds set up to make payments, appears to have gone to just the city and HSS.  The total amount the city will see is $2 million, while HSS will see $2.4 million, which is made up of the $1.75 million cash payment and a total of $650,000 that will be paid to HSS by other parties.

Besides the $1.75 million it will be paid, HSS will be given an additional $650,000 – for a total net benefit of $2.4 million for HSS.

“I am proud” said Schilthuis, “ of this entrepreneurial and family owned company. Our concerns about the challenges facing the pier guided us in our actions. We maintained our position with dignity and grace – simply because it was the right thing to do. The result of this settlement is proof of this.” 

“I want to thank all of our staff and our community. You stuck with us the entire time despite the stress and burden of this onerous ordeal. We have remained true to our values as a 60 year old company and that makes it all worth it.”

A proud man who stuck to his principles and did what he believed to be right and feels the settlement supports his decision to walk off a project, that could not be built with the plans he was given.

The current city council might look to the way Schilthuis handled himself, throughout what he called a “long and arduous ordeal”.  City staff had no problem working with Henry Schilthuis – it was the politicians that made a mess of this one.  Hopefully council members will reflect on how this worked out and be honest with themselves – this was not their finest hour.

Pier Dec 23-2011

The pier in December 2011 stripped of all the steel Schilthuis installed – with nothing but the caissons in place. The trestle to the right of the pier was used for construction equipment to lay down the new beams.

During the summer when people talk about how they want to vote come October – they might be persistent and consistent in asking the incumbents, what went wrong.

The $6 million plus that was spent would have done a lot for our transit system and road maintenance work, that we are so far behind on.  Hold their feet to the flames.



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5 comments to Pier contractor tells his side of the story with grace and dignity; believes the problems could have and should have been avoided.

  • Martin Stevens

    Thanks, Pepper. Great piece. It’s funny how I have to turn to you to find out what’s really going on. Too bad we can’t vote out Jackson again !! I always suspected there was some BS going on behind the scenes….

  • The original pier was a grand scheme at a reasonable cost, but what we got finally was a watered down version at far too great a cost and an eyesore for far too long while under construction. Yet everyone gets to keep their job, i.e., no real consequences for the decision makers or those who executed poorly on the city’s behalf.

    And don’t you love those spelling corrections? Reminds me of a pinched-faced English teacher I once had. Some people just have to show how clever they are–could have been easily done in a private e-mail, if at all. Oh well.

    You’ve done us a real service on this file. Thanks.

  • Alidë Camilleri

    I am sure I am not the only one to say, “I before E except after c”. You need an editor and someone to teach you the rules of journalism. Far too many errors in your pieces, but do enjoy reading them as the Post is always behind the times.

    • Greg


      Either volunteer to help or keep your message private. Nothing is served by your comment.

      This is a volunteer publication that provides a key community service.


      Thanks for keeping us informed. I would be interested to know who was informing the council the whole time that their case was so strong.
      Editor’s note: The city hires outside legal counsel to fight their battles. They made a great hire for the air park battle – they didn’t do as well with the pier. City council members tend to believe whatever their hired guns tell them – unfortunately when the lawyers are briefing council – it gets done in closed session and the public – that’s the people paying the bill – never get to know what was said.

  • Kurt

    Thank you Pepper for some fine investigative journalism.
    Why do politicians hate to admit they screwed up?