Solid progress on pier construction; progress too on the legal side – both costing us a fortune.


By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 4, 2012  If you were able to get out onto the pier last week you would have seen the crane, which has computers inside that basically make it almost impossible to topple the thing, – and that’s a relief.

We’ve been down this road before haven’t we? This time there has been so much Quality Control and Quality Assurance that it can’t fail – can it? The pieces that are horizontal between the girders are called diaphragms.  Those bolt like things sticking up are there to hold the concrete in place while it settles and cures.

The crane “flys”  girders into place while construction workers bolt them together and then set in place steel pieces they call diaphragms – these are the cross piece that keep the long girders apart.

The pier consists of fourteen segments – each segment having three girders. Segments 1 and 2 are now complete and there is enough steel on site to get segments three and four done by this week.

The schedule calls for two and at times three segments to be completed each week.  The steel fabrication problems have all been worked out and there is now a steady flow of fabricated steel that has gone through the contractors Quality Control and the city’s Quality Assurance processes on the way to the site.

These are the guys that are on top of everything on the site. Brad Cassidy of Graham Infrastructure, Tom Eichenbaum, Director of engineering, Craig Stevens, city project manager on this project and an unidentified Graham Infrastructure employee.

With four of the 14 segments done – leaves 10 to do.  At two a week – that part should be done in five weeks, which gets us to the first week of October.   That still leaves the node part to be built but the contractors expect to be able to build that part while the girders are being put into place.

Putting the steel girders into place and getting the diaphragms into place however, is just part of the job.

Then there is the  central node – which is the device that will support the beacon tower that was to house the windmill generator.  That windmill got thrown overboard, but the beacon is still very much a part of the project.  This is the device that will have hundreds of LED lights that come on each evening to illuminate the pier and make it visible for miles around.

We asked Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum just how bright the lights will be at night and he “guestimated”  they would be twice as bright as the lights inside the Performing Arts Centre are when that building is lit up at night.

While crew are working on segments six, seven and eight, form workers will be setting up the forms that will allow the pouring of concrete.

At full tilt we will see steel workers flying the beams into place, construction workers bolting them together at one location on the pier while forms are put in place at another and concrete poured at yet another –  all at the same time.

Concrete needs 28 days to fully cure. Testing is done at days five and six to ensure it was a good pour.

Brad Cassidy of Graham Infrastructure talks to crew member who will work on bolting parts into place.

It is now “theoretically possible”  to have the girders in place and the concrete poured before the site is shut down for the winter.

It is also “theoretically possible for the crews to work through much of the winter “if” the winter this year is as mild as it was last winter.

Craig Steven’s, the city’s project manager for the pier worked on the construction of the Performing Arts Centre and was able to work right through the winter of 2010. “We basically didn’t have a winter to deal with” and the structure they were working on was protected to a considerable degree by the parking garage next door.

However, those who work on projects that reach out into Lake Ontario will tell you that the “lake changes in September – it just becomes a different place and you can’t count on it to let you do much construction.”

We are just going to have to wait and see – for those who live or work close to the water, they have some idea as to how the lake behaves.

Brad Cassidy, Graham Infrastructure project manager on the site points out the project has been accident free. “We are very tight when it comes to safety on our project.  It doesn’t pay to cut corners and the men on this project know that”, said Cassidy.

Steel was available from the fabricator before the start of the holiday weekend but the contractor, with input from the city, decided not to bring it in while RibFest was taking place; they didn’t want to disrupt that event.  When you’re on the site, at least the day I was there, I felt no sense of “let’s get this done”.  There wasn’t the sound of jackhammers pounding away or men swarming over parts and bolting them together.  It was all kind  of easy going and laid back.

A crane with a computer program that basically prevent the thing from toppling over, wraps slings around each girder and flys them into position where they are bolted into place. Trick work that requires skilled operators.

If we are counting – and everyone is counting – we are 40 weeks out from completion based on the city manager Jeff Fielding’s numbers; 41 weeks out if we are using the first number the Mayor had – but he moved back and got himself to the point where he was mentioning Thanksgiving of 2013.

The only answer anyone should be giving is – “wait and see”.  But it is coming together.

While the construction part of the pier shows real progress so does the legal side of the project.  The lawyers are doing their discovery work, each side is getting a deeper look at what the other side has  – it isn’t a pretty picture.

The city talks of the pier coming in at something over $15 million.  By the time this is all wrapped up – think in terms of $20 million and you won’t see that figure until well into the next administration – somewhere around 2016 – maybe even longer and when the bills has to be approved – it will be done as quietly as possible.

The pier will look great, we will all be very proud of the thing – but we will also have paid far, far too much for what we got.  But hey – it’s only your money.

It’s development and construction will have gone through the MacIsaac administration, the Jackson administration, and the Goldring administration; we will see it settled in the Meed Ward administration and she will tell everyone that it needn’t have been as expensive as it was.  And she will be right.

Editorial note:  In this piece we mention a Meed Ward administration which in the fullness of time we expect to see.  The numerous comments sent to us via Facebook and directly seem to take the impression that we are saying Meed Ward will be the NEXT administration.  We wouldn’t go that far.  She will wear the Chain of Office but not in 2014 – Goldring has got that, if he wants it.


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