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Champaign tastes, beer budget was the way Meed Ward and Taylor saw it. Committee went for Champaign.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 24, 2011 – The Council Committee that accepted a report on the status of the Brant Street Pier did struggle with the information in the report and the process the city administration was going through – it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Some background: The humongous amount that has been put on the table is the city’s guestimate as to what it is going to cost to complete the Pier, or put another way, it is the amount the city is prepared to pay to have the job completed.

Not much work done recently – and we won’t see any work done until the fall – and even then there won’t be people on the Pier with hammers and drills.  Expect them on site in the Spring of 2012 – if the taxpayers haven’t run Council out of town.

Not much work done recently – and we won’t see any work done until the fall – and even then there won’t be people on the Pier with hammers and drills. Expect them on site in the Spring of 2012 – if the taxpayers haven’t run Council out of town.

Several Council members wondered why the city would say what it is prepared to pay before they ask contractors to bid. One might expect the contractors who are going to bid to offer to do the job for just what the city said it is willing to pay.

City Manager Roman Martiuk explained that “it is the practice for cities to say what they have budgeted so that the construction industry knows we are serious.”

Tom Eichenbaum explained that the consultants involved in the prequalification work are winnowing down a list of 11 contractors who have expressed interest and will come up with a list of eight contractors who will be given a tender package.

It will look just great when it is finished – now if we can find a way to get through the complaints that are going to come flooding in between now and then.  The Mayor has visions of Fireworks from the Pier on Canada Day and during the Sound of Music in 2013.

It will look just great when it is finished – now if we can find a way to get through the complaints that are going to come flooding in between now and then. The Mayor has visions of Fireworks from the Pier on Canada Day and during the Sound of Music in 2013.

A tender package is the document sets out in minute detail what it is the city wants to buy from them. The contractors take that document and have six weeks to come back with their best offer for the job. The city will review the tenders and is then required to give the job to the contractor who comes forward with the lowest price. Will any one of the contractors that decide to tender come in below what the city has said it has budgeted? There are eight of them competing for the job and if they want it they have to have the lowest price. You know where the price is going to come in don’t you? Car dealers do it to you all the time – they call them “upgrades”.

What was interesting to watch during committee discussion was how little several of the Council members knew about the tendering process – and that includes the Mayor. They had all kinds of questions – which was good – but it might have been better had the asked for a Workshop to get fully briefed. It would have been fine with us if they had gone into closed session to do that.

Our troubles began the day the crane went over and it has been angst and financial grief ever since.

Our troubles began the day the crane went over and it has been angst and financial grief ever since.

The city engineer, Eichenbaum, made a comment that we found astounding. He said that he was marginally involved with the selection of the contractor the first time around and that it was “fairly cursory” process and no one picked him up on it. To be fair the city had done work with Harm Schilthuis and Sons before and they perhaps felt that they could trust this company to complete the job. The forgot that Ronald Regan phrase: “Trust but verify.”

Well they are certainly verifying this time around and at considerable expense to the city given the cost of the two consulting firms brought in to see the engineering department through this situation, We don’t know yet what that additional cost is going to be nor do we know what the legal costs are going to amount to. Given the way our legal department tends to hide things we may never know.

Mayor Goldring wanted to be certain that we were not about to make another mistake because this is now on his plate, so he asked that there be a Staff Direction to review the tender process so that Council can “quantify and review the differences between what we did last time and what we are doing this time.” Those are questions the Mayor could have asked when he was the Council member for Ward 5.

The way city committees work is to react to reports that come from Staff. Mayor Goldring moved that the report be accepted along with its recommendations. In doing so he commented that “we are not out of the woods by any stretch”.

Part of what is going to keep this Council in the woods, and probably the woodshed with the taxpayers, is the discussion that took place around adding features to the Pier. You read that right – ADDING features – but only if they can be added without any additional costs. It seems people at City Hall believe there really is a free lunch.

Mother nature created this nice little beach for us – and now the engineers want to construct a stairway from the deck to the water level.  Why not just open up the anchor chain on the Promenade to the water level.  What will you bet that there is an insurance reason for not being able to do that?

Mother nature created this nice little beach for us – and now the engineers want to construct a stairway from the deck to the water level. Why not just open up the anchor chain on the Promenade to the water level. What will you bet that there is an insurance reason for not being able to do that?

Here is what they want to add. Again,, some background. Many people thought there would be provision and a place for people to tie up their boats. Nope, that was not in the plan. However, when the base part of the Pier was built the flow of water changed and the result is a small strip of sandy beach on the western side of the Pier right next to the beginning of the Spencer Park Promenade.

 

That was a bit of a bonus Mother Nature gave us and the engineers have decided that it would be “nice” to have a small ramp from the top main deck of the Pier down to this small Beach and they drew into a set of plans what they had in mind. They did add that this would only be done if the bid from the contractor was within the budget the city has established. It seems that for city people the objective is to spend all the money and not come in well under the budget and effect a savings.

Councillor Jack Dennison made a significant point when he said “nobody can spend money like a municipality”. Well, Dennison and his six colleagues are the Council and they can, and in this instance, should say no.

There are some design problems with the Pier that is going to be built. They are small but they offer some insight into how this project was handled first time around. There are concerns with the height of the guard rail and the space at the bottom of the guard rail – they don’t want some toddler slipping through the edge and into the water some twenty feet below. Council committee got right down into the weeds on this one with Councillors Taylor and Dennison talking about how “kick plates” could be put in.

The Pier was supposed to have “iconic” lights but a) there aren’t enough of them; b) they don’t make them anymore and we need at least three more and c) no one is sure where the ones we are supposed to have actually are.  Figure that one out.

The Pier was supposed to have “iconic” lights but a) there aren’t enough of them; b) they don’t make them anymore and we need at least three more and c) no one is sure where the ones we are supposed to have actually are. Figure that one out.

The other problem was with the light standards which are apparently “iconic” – a much over used word these days. Twelve are needed and there are only nine and – are you ready for this – they don’t make them any more.

It gets better – they really don’t know where the original nine are. The hope is that they are somewhere – this is beginning to sound like a version of the Keystone Cops.

The engineers thought a floating dock would be nice and they have just the place to put it. Dennison wants a much less expensive dock.  Can we afford one at all?

The engineers thought a floating dock would be nice and they have just the place to put it. Dennison wants a much less expensive dock. Can we afford one at all?

And there is more. The engineers want to put in a floating dock along side that natural beach that Mother Nature gave us and have talked to a company who has “just the thing” for us. Councillors Taylor and Dennison wanted to know why the city couldn’t get something similar to what Barangas on the Beach has in place. “It’s been there for years” explained Dennison. “I was looking at it recently and it’s just fine and it sits out on the lake and not tucked away in the lee of the Pier where it would be protected.” The engineers thought the city should have something a little more “substantial”. Dennison was right – they do know how to spend your money.

More yet folks. Turns out that the small stretch of land from the shore side end of the Pier to the beginning of the promenade wasn’t included in the original plan so something has to be done there and the thinking amongst the engineers was that a pathway identical in material to that used on the promenade should be built from the shore edge right up to the sidewalk level on Lakeshore. These are what Meed Ward used to call “nice to have’s” when she was running for Council.

When all these pretty little additions were being talk about there wasn’t a single word of indignation from Council – not even from Councillor Sharman, who does indignation real good.

Back to the money. The original funding sources for the $9,272,033. project budget was as follows

Senior government funding                              $4,356,230

Region of Halton                                                 $2,500,000

Burlington Hydro                                                $   100,000

Debentures                                                           $    423,639

Park Development Charges Reserve Fund    $      46,000

Park Dedication Reserve Fund                         $    242,964

Capital Purposes Reserve Fund                       $1,603,200

It is doubtful that Mike Wallace would succeed in getting the federal government to just forget about the money they gave us if we tore the Pier down – but what the heck – it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I mean we did return a Conservative to office, so they do owe us something.

The Region of Halton isn’t going to give us a break – if they did all the other municipalities in the Region would want the same break. I suppose if we said they had to have a Pier before they could get a break – naw that’s not going to work..

We own Burlington Hydro so maybe they would just write it off in return for our running their logo on the city web site.

Debentures: At least once a year the city, through the Region goes to the market to raise funds for specific projects. The Pier was one of the projects and that’s where this $423,639. came from. Maybe we should have gotten more?

The $46,000 we got from the Park Development Charges Reserve Fund, maybe they could just bury the amount and forget it. Same with the $242,964 and the $1,603,200 they was taken from different reserve funds. It’s our money so we can’t give it back to ourselves – can’t someone in accounting just erase the number from the ledger or cover it with white out. Isn’t that what accountants do? So, perhaps all is not lost

But it isn’t over yet – all the Committee did was accept the report – it does go to a full Council meeting July 4, where the final decision gets made. Will hundreds of annoyed taxpayers show up and demand that the city get real.

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