We got up close and personal with The Pier. It was not a pretty picture. You had no idea how much steel has to be removed.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 7, 2011  The city took a slew of media people out onto the Pier and gave us all time to wander about and have a look at just what it looked like up close.  There were a number of politicians along – The Lady Jane, our freshly minted MPP, Jane McKenna, who now gets a bit more than $1500. each year to drive from Burlington to Queen’s Park, where she will work on our behalf, was on hand wearing two right-footed work boots, which we thought might have been a political statement.  Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster was also on hand but not wearing her delightful pink work boots.  “They give me blisters” she explained, “unless I wear thick socks”.

It was a bit of an experience to walk out on the Pier.  While very clearly a construction site, what was noticed immediately was that the “instant beach” that has formed on the west side of The Pier at the edge of the breakwater, has grown considerably since we last saw the site.  This is where the city wants to, at some point in the future, put in something in the way of a boat dock. We just might have more beach to work with than we thought we’d have.

The Pier as it stands today has three parts. The trestle to the right which is used for construction purposes and will come out when the work is completed. The round section in the lower left of this picture, which is built above land. The rest, that large S shaped section that reaches out into the lake - every inch of that steel has to be taken out. The caissons the S shape rests on are embedded five metres into the lakebed and are solid and do not have to be replaced.

What had not been made clear to the public, and I have followed this issue for some time, is the amount of steel that has to be taken out and trucked off the site into storage somewhere. Basically all the steel is going to be taken out.  That was never really made clear during the many council committee sessions or in the 10 Pier Update releases the city has put out since this mess came to the surface.

What the city is faced with is replacing all the steel that has been put in place.  The only things being kept are the caissons (those are the big round pipes that have been driven five metres into the  lake bed.  All the steel, ALL the steel that has been put in place is being taken out and placed in storage, while the lawyers work through the legal difference of opinion.

And that is what the legal fight is all about – the steel used for the construction of the site was not what was needed but that didn’t become evident until the crane accident.  Can’t blame the contractor for that one – he didn’t specify the steel, he just built to plans he was given.  Architects and structural engineers do all the designing and planning at work and they sign off on that.  So the goof was at the architect and design levels.  We have been saying the contractor walked off the job – think I can understand why he walked.  He couldn’t build a Pier based on the plans he was given.  Quite why the original contractor didn’t do the level of due diligence that would have revealed the problems is something we don’t understand.  This is probably something the contractor will regret for some time.  But we think it will become clear that the city issued a call for bids and gave the contractors drawings that called for steel that proved to be unsuitable.

In the illustrations you can see just how much steel is involved – basically ALL of it.

The problems were not the making of the current Council.  They approved a contract that involved plans that had been prepared and signed off on by professional architects and engineers.

Should the city engineers have taken a closer look at the drawings they issued?  The designers and the structural engineers signed off on the plans – is that where the city’s responsibility ends? Someone, somewhere at the design level really screwed up on this – and that will get worked out by the lawyers.  However, you the public may never know just what happened.  The city doesn’t care if we know what happened – what it want to do is recover as much of the money that has been spent as possible.  This project was supposed to cost $9.2 million in 2010.  Graham Infrastructure, the firm hired by the city to complete the Pier, is being paid $5.9 million.  Other costs total $8.4 but we’ve not learned yet what the legal bill for all this is going to amount to – but know this; it is not going to be a small bill that will get paid out of petty cash.

The "instant beach", a natural formation of sand that was formed as a result of the currents around the Pier is a gift from Mother Nature. It is now twice the size of what is shown in this photograph and just might grow to be even larger. Plans to put some kind of boat docking in place are in the thinking stage.

City council will not even go along with saying how much they have spent to date – they claim that would reveal their legal strategy to the people they are suing.  The people the city is suing already know the strategy – a claim has been made.   Some Council members talk in terms of recovering some of the additional money they have had to spend.  Given what they have known since last December that was irresponsible.  The city would like to recover as much of that money as possible.  Don’t think they’re going to get what they were hoping for.

The engineers and architects that screwed up don’t want you to know what they did wrong either.  This will get dragged out for as long as the people the city is suing can drag it out – but when it comes down to the short strokes the people we are suing will settle.  Just hope that the city stands tough and gets as much as they can for the damage done to our reputation.

Where does all this leave Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., the original contractor?  They are between a rock and a hard place.  All they did was attempt to build on plans the city provided.  They may find a judge deciding the contractor should have taken a much closer look at those plans but if your doctor gives you a prescription you assume that he knows what he’s doing – after all he is a doctor.  A judge might also decide that the city bears some responsibility for giving out plans for a Pier that in effect could not be built.  Had that crane not fallen over we perhaps would never have known about the deficient quality of the steel. That’s something the courts will work out – but methinks that  Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. has been had – to some degree due to a bit of negligence on their part, they should have perhaps checked those plans a little more closely.

The structural problem, according to reported comments city engineer Tom Eichenbaum made, came to the surface when the city hired a materials testing firm to do an analysis of the steel. Eichenbaum is reported to have said: “Through forensic destructive testing, they were able to chop up beams and do some testing on the actual metal content …there was enough concern that it may not meet the long term strength requirements”.  That steel certainly didn’t meet the requirement when the crane toppled over.

Now we understand why the Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. insurance company came back with a proposal to re-do the deal.  The city didn’t buy the deal (although we’ve no idea what the deal offered was, because the city’s legal department keep the kimono on that matter tightly closed).

As for The Pier – it is going to be, in the words of  Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum, “fantastic”.  During his comments, while we were all out on The Pier, Eichenbaum mentioned  there was “going to be 150 LED lights spread out along the Pier, which will be quite a site from the Skyway bridge”.  “It will” said Eichenbaum, “define a part of the Burlington shoreline.”

The 150 LED lights that will go on the Pier will be powered by the small wind turbine that is part of the structure. City engineers expect the Pier to be quite a sight from the SkyWay bridge at night. They will define the look of the city's shore line.

Marianne Meed Ward took part in some of the tour – the Mayor was there for the full Monty but the other council members took a pass.  They didn’t need to see the site – they had already seen it – last December when it was a lot colder than last Friday afternoon.  But on that cold December day every member of your council knew exactly how much of the steel had to be taken out – ALL of it.  But they didn’t pass that fact along to their constituents.

Will it all come out in the wash – yes but that wash will never get hung out to dry.  The city will settle with the architects and the general contractor and the insurance company and the  agreement will include a gag order which will prevent you from ever knowing all the facts.

It is nevertheless going to be quite a thing to see.  It will make a big difference to the shoreline and the way Burlington sees itself.  But we will have paid far more than we should have to get that Pier built.  That isn’t something the current Council did but there are three members of this Council – Craven, Taylor and Dennison who were on deck at the time and they bear some of the responsibility.

The Mayor wasn’t on the Council that did the original deal and he wasn’t Mayor when the problems came to the surface.  What Goldring has done is make the best of the hand he was dealt and for the most part he has done a very good job.  But he could have and should have let the public know just what he was up against.  Had he done so however, those who wanted the Pier torn down would have been howling at his doorstep – not something he deserves.



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How did she get to see a copy of the contract and what`s in that big orange boxÉ

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 5, 2011  The contract isn`t signed – yet; lawyers need time to get all the documents together,  but there is something going on down at the Pier.  Either that or aliens have landed and they are hiding in that bright orange container parked on the Pier.

The contents of that container is the beginning of the construction of what the city is euphemistically calling  phase two of the Pier development.  Phase 1 was a total bust but Phase 2 has gotten off to a great start.

With the contract price for the completion of the Pier fully understood by everyone and the schedule in place, it was time to move on to other issues.  But before your Council could do that Ward 1 Councillor Meed Ward wanted to know more about the sub-contractor that Graham Infrastructure was planning on working with.  The question several people had when the council meeting adjourned was: Who cares ?    Graham Infrastructure is the company the city has contracted with and who they use to work with them is entirely up to them but Meed Ward said she had researched the Joint Venture partner and couldn’t find very much about them and asked staff to provide more detail and background on the company.

Staff has better things to do with their time.  And the councilor needs to let the contractors get on with their job.  Meed Ward didn’t support the decision to re tender – she felt that something could have been worked out with the original contractor.  When it came time to vote for the project, Meed Ward did support the decision and said at the time she would have “preferred the city go through a different door but that door was now closed so we should move on“.  Indeed – it is time to move on.

What's inside that orange container? The three missing lights? Continers are the first step to getting contruction of phase 2 underway. Will we hear jack hammers soon?

Meed Ward however is sticking with this one.  She somehow managed to get her hands on a copy of the contract with the contractor, which has yet to be signed, and mentioned to her fellow council members how thick the document is.  Some time ago this council decided that it didn`t want to “get too far down into the weeds“ when it came to project oversight.  Going through a contract that has yet to be signed is best done by the folks over at legal.

There is a building level of exasperation on the part of several council members (probably safe to say all council members) over the often unnecessary questions that Meed Ward asks and the requests for information that tie up staff time and for the most part serve no useful purpose.  The member for Ward 2 has been on council long enough to have learned just what the job is and t let staff do their work and allow council meetings to proceed in a more timely manner.

What the folks at legal have been doing however is a concern for Ward 3 councilor John Taylor who wanted to know what the city`s legal strategy is going to be once the case gets into what lawyers call the “discovery phase“ and what the legal costs have been to date.  Council has a right to at least be briefed on the legal strategy (that will be and should be a closed council session) and Taylor pushed a bit to get a commitment from staff as to when council would learn where things stand on the legal side.

We will know what legal is thinking before the end of the year.  Taylor pressed for a specific date and wanted something during the last cycle of council meetings in November – the best he could get was a guarantee that there would be information before Christmas.  We can expect a hefty number when the legal department eventually opens their kimono – expect to experience some heartburn.



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Why the anonymity from the Pier Watcher ? This one doesn`t pass the smell test.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 4, 2011  – In the world of newspapers and other media you learn to protect your sources, but at the same time be sure that your sources aren’t using you – and when a source does not identify themselves, by which I mean you don’t really know who they are – be very, very, very careful – because that source usually has something to hide and they want to manipulate the process.

A number of months ago there was an email address burlingtonpierwatch@gmail.com – a citizen who had developed an interest in what was happening at the foot of Brant Street.  The Pier watcher disappeared during the summer and has now re-appeared with information that they could only have been gotten from the lawyers involved in the dispute with the city.

Your city council has finally resolved what has been a debilitating and financially expensive experience,  but to the credit of both the Mayor, his council and senior city staff – plus those secretive folks in the city’s legal department,  the pier project is now back on track and with a bit of a break with the weather you will be out on that Pier in the summer of 2013.

Expect to see men and equipment out on the Pier any day now. The lawyers of course can now begin their squabbles - the city has a strong casse.

It has been an exhausting process and an expensive one in terms of money spent on lawyers and consultants not to mention the staff time the construction errors ate up.  But we are past that – and we truly are past all that.

However, there are those that want to limit the damage to themselves and they are using the electronic media to mess things up a little while the lawyers work towards some kind of a settlement.

The parties in all this are primarily, Zurich Insurance, the company that put up the performance bond – they want to get out of that mess for as little as possible.

Henry Schilthuis and Sons, the original contractor who walked off the job when they found that they couldn’t complete the job with the design they had been given and  Aecom, the company that now owns the engineers who did the original design work.

The city is suing both for $7.5 million and $10 million respectively and looking for $3.5 million from the insurance company.  These are large sums of money and the people being sued will fight very hard to get the amount of the claim they are going to have to pay down to as low as possible.

So when you see things like what is set out below being sent out you begin to wonder – who is the Pier Watcher and who is he working for and where is he getting his information ?  Read on and decide for yourself.

 Enter Howard Wise – the construction lawyer you would rather have on your side.

 Clearly HSS Construction is not planning to back down from the Brant Street Pier fiasco. In fact, they’ve decided that Howard Wise will be replacing Phil Horgan to lead the HSS legal battle. This only can signal that the gloves are coming off. Horgan is known as a construction lawyer who concentrates on reaching solutions. Howard Wise has a reputation of fighting and winning.

 This seems to be a shift for Henry Schilthuis, (president of HSS) well known for his gentle demeanour and his default to working out problems (HSS hasn’t been embroiled in a lawsuit in over 50 years until the pier came along).  It could be that the bonding company is pushing HSS to start playing hardball and teach the municipality a lesson. There are concerns among bonding companies that municipalities are relying too heavily on bonding companies to solve what are contractual disputes.

 What does all this mean? Goldring and company now know Election Issues #1.

Language like “teach the municipality a lesson” and the concerns of the bonding company – interesting.  Will the Pier Watcher come forward and identify himself ?

Election issue # 1 is to deliver on your promises and Goldring said he would finish the Pier and his Council has gone along with him.  All the critical votes have been 7-0  Promises by the Mayor have been delivered.


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It’s a done deal. Council to approve pier contractor Sept 26th. Council members may dance on their desks.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 14, 2011 It’s done. The city’s Community Services Committee approved an Engineering department recommendation to go with the bid submitted by Graham Infrastructure to complete the construction of the Brant Street Pier at a cost to the city of $6,429,700.

Every member of council voted FOR the recommendation – all in favour votes by this Council have not been the norm. The matter goes to a regular Council meeting on September 26th where it becomes legal. You can expect to see construction people on the site the next day.

The Council committee went for the whole package which added $283,360 to the price which included the extension of the promenade from the edge of the pier right up to Lakeshore Road and for the access ramp that will let people get to the small mini beach that has formed on the west side of the pier.

They deferred on a floating dock on the west side of the pier even though councilor Dennison pushed a bit to get that included. What happens next?

Here’s the schedule:

Finalize contract and mobilize the construction team – October 2011

Site preparation/Steel removal – November/December 2011

Much of the steel used in the first phase was found to be deficient and will have to be removed.

Steel fabrication – November 2011 – March 2012

New steel beams that meet the design specifications has to be fabricated and delivered to the web site.

Steel installation – April May 2012

This is the point where it all begins to come together.

Deck and beacon construction May to December 2012

The beacon, which we’ve heard very little about gets built during the phase of construction.

Winter shutdown    December 2012 to March 2013

An early winter or a long winter could extend this phase. If it is a mild winter some time may be gained.

Total completion, grand opening – April – June 2013


Council looks for re-lection November 2014

The first major task is the removal of tons of steel beams that are deficient.  Some of the beams that were never used are shown above.  Who will get the funds recovered from the sale of this scrap steel?

The first major task is the removal of tons of steel beams that are deficient. Some of the beams that were never used are shown above. Who will get the funds recovered from the sale of this scrap steel?

There was a very satisfied feeling in the Council chamber when all seven hands went up approving the recommendation. And they have every reason to be satisfied – they worked long and hard and overcame several significant obstacles.

There are legal points to be argued with the claims the city is making against the original contractor and the designer – but those are matters for another day. Wednesday, September 14th was a win day for this council and they deserved to feel pleased with what they had achieved. The Engineering people deserved the credit they were given

The total project cost, including the nearly $5.98 million spent to date, will amount to a total of $14.44 million, which does not include the legal costs.

There is more to say about where we are with the pier project; how we got here and just what those “lessons learned” were. Agreeing to a $6 million dollar project and ending up with a price of $14. million calls for a hard look at what the crowd at the city hall really did. Credit where credit is due, yes – but accountability and laying the responsibility for the mistakes where they belong is also a part of the process. We will cover that story when city council passes the by-law that lets properly qualified contractors begin their work.

Much of the steel from the circle area on the left out to the end of the pier has to be removed and replaced.  The caissons that dig deep into the lake bed are sound and that portion of the electrical system installed is in good shape.  However, three of the light standards seem to have just disappeared.  The Engineering department managed to return the light standards that were unacceptable and has bought twelve new light standards

Much of the steel from the circle area on the left out to the end of the pier has to be removed and replaced. The caissons that dig deep into the lake bed are sound and that portion of the electrical system installed is in good shape. However, three of the light standards seem to have just disappeared. The Engineering department managed to return the light standards that were unacceptable and has bought twelve new light standards

The city has a strong legal case and will probably settle with the designer and the contractor at some point in the legal process but, as the Mayor said during the meeting – “that is something we will handle on another day.

Graham Group of Companies is a North American-wide company, with a local base in Mississauga. Graham is the fifth largest construction company in Canada with more than 1,200 salaried staff and a 2010 revenue of $1.8 billion.




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Getting closer – staff has made choice, which they explain to Council andt that t gets voted on. Will it be a 4-3 for or an all 7 for?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 9, 2011 The Engineers have done their work and come to the conclusion that Graham Infrastructure of Mississauga should be the company that completes the construction of the Brant Street Pier. Hallelujah!

The recommendation is part of a report that will go before Council September 26. This has been a long protracted project and it looks as if the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train coming towards us.

The city received and publicly opened four bids from pre-qualified contractors to complete the pier project on Aug. 26. Prices ranged from $6.5 to $10.5 million. Those numbers included 13% HST; municipalities pay just 1.7% HST. The lowest bid came in from Graham Infrastructure.

The city reviewed all four bids to ensure they complied with the requirements of the tender documentation issued to seven prequalified contractors in July 2011. The total contract price of Graham’s bid is $6,429,700, including net HST at 1.76 per cent.

The natural beach was a gift nature gave the city.  Does the city have to spend additional money to build an access ramp to the location?  And is the access ramp proposed the most cost effective solution?  And will we call it the MacIsaac ramp?

The natural beach was a gift nature gave the city. Does the city have to spend additional money to build an access ramp to the location? And is the access ramp proposed the most cost effective solution? And will we call it the MacIsaac ramp?

The bid includes two optional items: a beach access ramp and additional concrete work for the waterfront promenade in Spencer Smith Park. Interesting that the city does not break out the cost of the waterfront promenade part that is needed and the ramp to the natural beach that was formed by current that developed around the pier.

The concrete work for the promenade is necessary – this Council can and should seek some public input on the access ramp to the natural beach. We have a council that talks about getting input from the community but we don’t see this council asking people in the community what they want.

Our Mayor has stayed the course and held firm to his belief that the pier could be completed for the amount that was allocated. And he has done so with a considerable amount of uniformed opposition from a group that want the thing torn down. Well the Mayor has done his job – his council has been with him – well everyone except Ward 2 Councilor Meed Ward who voted with against going forward with a tender because she thought a deal could have been worked out with the contractor that walked off the job. She now takes the position that she will work with whoever wins the tender award. Good for her.

City staff have done a superb job of keeping this very difficult phase of a problem task on point. It has not been an easy job but they’ve done it and done it with all the expertise and professionalism that was missing when the project got started two council terms ago. Again – kudos for a Mayor that stuck to his guns.

I’m looking forward to our Mayor asking each Council member to hold a meeting in their ward at which the Mayor will listen to opinions on whether or not the access ramp should be included in this second phase of the construction project.

There’s nothing wrong with the ramp and it makes economic sense to include it in the next phase of construction – but this city has put up with a lot of delay and a pile of additional expense and they deserve the right to have this all be it small addition explained to them and given a chance to voice there opinion.

Ward 4 councilor Jack Dennison commented that “municipalities certainly no how to spend money” when the idea of an access ramp was first proposed by city engineers.

The Graham Group of Companies is a North American-wide company, with a local base in Mississauga. Graham is the fifth largest construction company in Canada with more than 1,200 salaried staff and a 2010 revenue of $1.8 billion.

Graham is an employee-owned, industry-leading construction solutions partner. They are a diversified and growing company active across North America.

Sounds like a pretty decent organization.  They are certainly big enough and appear to have the scale needed to get our pier built.  Let’s see what Council decides when they discuss the staff recommendation.

Sounds like a pretty decent organization. They are certainly big enough and appear to have the scale needed to get our pier built. Let’s see what Council decides when they discuss the staff recommendation.

Graham covers the entire construction lifecycle and every contracting mode: general contracting, CM/GC, project management, design-build, design-bid-build, integrated project delivery, turnkey solutions, renovations/upgrades, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and partnerships, commissioning and post-construction management. This versatility is underpinned by our major competitive advantages:

Extensive integrated capabilities, based in Graham’s offices and shops in more than one-dozen centres across North America, lifting us far beyond a standard general contractor or construction manager;

Large, company-owned equipment fleet to help us self-execute construction work;

A unique, industry-leading integrated information system that creates a seamless and accurate project execution platform from first contact through final reconciliation.

Two questions: Where were these guys when we began the pier construction project and do they have a trestle of their own?

Assuming council accept the staff recommendation – will we hear jackhammers on the site before we see snow?





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