The pier is going to forever change city skyline as you know it today – think in terms of a four story structure with an observation deck.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. December 24, 2012  There will be two new structures in this city of ours in the first half of this year.  One will be a full four stories tall and will alter the skyline seen from Spencer Smith Park and put the Skyway Bridge into a different perspective.  Burlington will have its own structure.

The other will be a piece of public art outside the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

The pier will have cost us a small fortune and when the true price and the full story of how the pier got built is known, some of the pride we deserve will slip away – but the pier will be there for the next hundred years and will shed the “mistake on the lake” moniker it was given during its darkest days.

DetailosWe have a view of Hamilton on our skyline – once the pier is completed and the four storey node is in place there will be a different view of Burlington from Hamilton.  when the Bridgewater 22 storey condominium is completed in 2015 Hamilton will see a much different Burlington.

Sometime in, perhaps late March, a truck will glide into the city with what amount to a four story structure tightly strapped into place.  That structure will be the “node” that will be set out on the pier.  The “node” (it does need a better name doesn’t it?) was to have a wind turbine on top but that got thrown under the bus by a city council that plainly did not completely understand how the turbine was going to supply the power that would light up the pier at night.  Director of Engineering Tom Eichenbaum dropped the ball on that one and had his city manager apologizing for a less than expected performance.

Cancelling the wind turbine part of the pier allowed numerous other costs to get hidden – we tell you how city hall pulled that one off below.

This part is a good news story.  The steel beams are now  all in place;  the concrete deck will have been poured.  Given the kind of winter we appear to be having the construction team can get more work done than they expected.

When in place the “node” will rise four storeys above the deck of the pier. There will be a set of stairs up the side of the node to get people to an observation deck. Rising out of the observation deck will be a decorative tower that will have LED lights on it. The original plan called for a turbine to be atop the tower but that got cut – mostly because city council didn’t under just how the turbine was going actually save money; long story.

The node, which will be circular, will have a stairway going up the side that will allow the public to get up a little higher and see  further out into the lake and more of  the southern edge of the city.  The observation deck won’t be very big and once wedding parties become aware of it you may never get a chance to get on the stairs – they will be used all the time to photograph brides with their grooms.  It is going to be quite spectacular.

Soaring above the observation deck will be an long oval shape that was to contain the shaft that would have transmitted power from the wind turbine down to the electrical room that is built into the pier on the east side. That by the way is the room that had – maybe it is still has – the meters that were to measure the amount of electricity the wind turbine.  That oval part of the structure is now purely decorative.  The failure to deliver on the turbine left a black mark on the city, it’s mayor and his environmental aspirations he apparently chose not to walk his talk on this porject.

The construction of the pier ran into problem after problem; a crane that fell over and revealed that sub-standard steel was being used. Then the purchase of steel that failed to meet standards and finally steel from two suppliers that was acceptable. The city just didn’t want any more “mistakes” and so brought in some of the tightest “quality control” and “quality assurance” protocols the construction industry has seen. Above are the markings made by quality control people on one of the steel beams.  Every weld on every beam was inspected.

Because of all the past construction failures the city is spending a fortune on quality control and quality assurance and to some degree slowing  down the work the construction team needs to get done – but that doesn’t matter one hoot – the city is not going to let anyone get sloppy and have another accident on their hands. Cost be damned – the tax payers are just going to have to suck it up and pay the bill – but the pier will get built and it will open to great fanfare.

The drawings for the hand rails that will line each side of the pier have been or are about to be approved; any last minute changes needed for the node are being done.  Come the new year construction will begin and the rails will be shipped and then attached to the deck.

The guys that get things done at city hall have moved out of the “ready for the next crisis” stage they were in and are now talking about just how they can really make a “boffo”  event of the Official opening.

There are a number of community service organizations getting ready to talk to the city about the role they can play in the opening.  People in Burlington are clearly moving from wondering if we really should continue to try and complete the pier and are approaching the point where they are taking ownership of the structureWe should see less of those “this is an outrage” letters to the editor that get published.

There is a lot to be outraged about.  Every couple of weeks the city published an Update on where things are with the pier construction.  This document got created because the public was screaming mad over not being fully informed and there was no one focal point for news and information about the pier.

The document usually gets trotted out at the end of the Development and Infrastructure Committee meetings and there isn’t much discussion – unless there is a problem, which was certainly the case when the decision to not include the turbine in the project was made.  There is a line in the most recent Update report that reads like this:

PMT is adhering to the Council approved process regarding approved change work orders.  PMT is the Project Management Team.

When the decision was made not to include the wind turbine that meant there was a savings – right?  Well, not really.  The money saved is kept on the books as it were.  Sort of like a credit that can be used to offset any debits that come along.

Thus, when there is a “change work order” the cost of that order is taken out of the credit that was created when the city decided not to proceed with the building of the wind turbine.

A change work order is created when the owner of the project – that’s you and I, wants to contractor to do something different – make a change.  Contractors love change work orders – that means more revenue for them.  ‘You want another thingy put in here – no problem, just give us a change work order and we will have that in there as fast as you can say Cam Jackson.’

The cancellation of the wind turbine created a pretty big credit that s slowly being used up.  That credit is what allows the city to say in each update that the pier is on time and on budget – which technically it is.

Ya just gotta love the way these things get done don’t ya?

Look for some significant announcements, probably late in January on a community group that will play a large part in the opening of the pier.

If you happen to be in city hall, which is closed for the holidays, you will see a piece of art work with hand prints on a piece of canvas.  Those hand prints were part of the Lasting Impressions event that took place a number of months ago when the city took the first step of a public process that was created to involve the citizens of the city more closely in the creation of the pier.  It was time to have the public made a part of the structure and who better than the very young people – they are the ones who are going to bear the tax load that pays for the thing – and the costs aren’t all accounted for yet.

Set in a very prominent part of the pier will be a platform that has a couple of hand prints cast in metal along with part of the story of the pier.  The city has to be given credit for taking an idea that was passed along to them and developing an event that was the beginning of the shift from looking at problems to beginning to see the pier as something that will significantly enhance the waterfront.

There is going to be another enhancement – the public art that is to be placed outside the Performing Arts Centre on Locust Street just to the west of city hall.



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