Report provides Committee with the status of the Reserve for contingencies; that is money to fight the legal battle over the pier.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  December 5,2012    It was a very short report; just a single page from the Finance department to the Budget and Corporate Services Committee.  It was a For Information only report with no specific purpose other than to let out some numbers to the Committee while they were in a closed session.

It had no relevance to the Strategic Plan; it was a report to tell what the city was probably going to have to come up with to pay for Human Resource related matters, basically handling the cost of letting people go and any of those messy sexual harassment cases that crop up from time to time.  The public has no idea how many of these there might be – that’s not public information but it should be.  We may not have any such cases.

Here is what appears in the public documents.

“The report provides Committee with the status of the Reserve for contingencies as at September 30, 2012. The commitments disclosed in this report for legal matters are legal staff’s best estimates based on litigation matters outstanding at this time. Human Resource department staff provide estimates for HR related matters and Corporate matter estimates are provided by other City staff as required. The report provides a comparison of commitments to the prior quarter.”

As you walk out onto the pier and pause to look back you get a sense of the relationship the pier is going to have to the city. At this point I was less than half way out.

Looking west from less than half way out the pier.

Looking east you can barely see where the Riviera Motel used to be. Five years from now there will be a 22 storey high rise; a four star hotel and a smaller seven storey condominium. The waterfront is never going to be the same.

The Human Resources matters are a part of running a large corporation; people get hired and some get fired and settling with an employee being let go costs.

The legal stuff is something different.  The city’s corporate counsel takes the position that it is unwise to let the “other side” know how much is being spent on legal fees, which is why the public has no idea how much has been spent or is likely to be spent on the several legal fights the city is handling related to the construction of the pier.

There are two cases; one against the construction company, Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and the other against the company responsible for the design of the pier; Aecom.

In each case the city has made a claim and now has to defend the claim they made in a court room.  Both cases are in what is known as the Discovery process,  during which each side gets to ask the other all kinds of questions based for the most part on documents they have obtained from each other.

Burlington’s key witness is expected to be Tom Eichenbaum, the current Director of Engineering, who is the only senior member of the original pier development team left on staff.

The city has had its problems in the past with Eichenbaum’s performance on the wind turbine part of the pier, when council decided not to have a wind turbine produce the power that would light up the pier at night.

Because the city always hires outside counsel to fight their legal battles, lawyers are hired.  Everyone complains about how much the lawyers cost but we pay them nevertheless.  Those lawyers are now getting a closer look at each other’s case and sometime in the spring they should be ready to take this case to trial – unless of course someone decides to offer to settle a claim.

Council  members will have asked Nancy Shea-Nicol, the city’s in-house lawyer, for what the lawyers she hired have to say about what the city’s case look like.

Now you know why this was a closed door meeting.

The construction, or perhaps we should say, re-construction of the pier, is coming along fine.  The Mayor was taken out for a look-see on Monday and the contractors report that a spring opening is still very possible but everything depends on the kind of weather we have.

The wind on the pier last Friday was brutal – everyone was sent home.  But the mild weather is allowing for the pouring of concrete.  All the decks are complete except for the area that will have the “node” which is the part that reaches up into the air two levels. (This was the part that was to have the wind turbine at the top.)

The node drawings have been approved and the fabrication work is being done; instillation and the pouring of the last of the concrete is scheduled for January.

The drawings for the rails have been approved and fabrication of those will will begin before the end of the year.  The rail design is very sleek and will give the pier a very modern look.

As one stands out on the pier and looks back into the city you get a sense of what it is going to be like to walk out to the end when the project is open to the public.

While it has cost a fortune – three times the original planned cost – it will change the way people see their city and the way the rest of the world sees Burlington.

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