Dates have now been set for the pier litigation, extending well into 2014, with the anticipated start of a trial in the spring.
It is good to see this project reach completion. This is your pier, you paid for it, so I encourage you to visit and take time to enjoy it.
The next step in this process will be to resolve the outstanding legal issues with the original engineering firm, construction contractor, and other parties.
Recent developments with the pier – including faulty steel and welding, and cancellation of the wind turbine – have exposed problems with the information provided to council and our decision-making process. This turn of events has highlighted the importance of learning from past problems on this project. I believe we can – and an important(…)
In a recent case, the city of Waterloo was required by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario, upheld by a three-judge divisional court panel, to disclose legal fees up to January of this year, in an ongoing legal battle over RIM Park financing. The city has already been forced by the Commission to release(…)
There have been conflicting reports recently on the original cost of the pier, ranging from $9.2m to $12.5m. The anticipated costs when council first approved the project in 2006 were $6.2m. The table below charts the increases over time, sourced completely from city documents. There are important lessons here for all of us to ensure future projects are costed appropriately from the beginning, and stay on budget.
I did not support the retender path because of the additional costs and timelines, but alternatives to complete the pier are now closed, so we need to get on with the retendering. However, I remain concerned about the amount of money spent on this project when we have other significant priorities – our hospital and infrastructure repair, to name just two. I also have reservations about the joint venture with Jardeg. Finally, I will continue to push for transparency on the legal costs, design changes and alternatives considered on this project, so residents can hold your representatives accountable for the decisions we’ve made.
My take: Residents deserve transparency and accountability, through proactive communications from City Hall, not secondhand information. That’s best practise and good governance. I’ve asked our legal and communications staff to advise what can be shared with residents on the retender specifications without compromising our legal case – especially given that the new specifications are public.
Now that we are on the litigation path with HSS, AECOM and others originally involved in the pier, there will be winners and there will be losers – the courts will determine who’s who. We’ve lost the opportunity to negotiate a win-win, and that’s disappointing for everyone involved in this project.
My take: I’m glad a solution was found that saves the retender. Our first response to challenges must always be to use common sense and aim to negotiate a win-win solution. It shouldn’t take an 11th hour crisis to get us here, which is neither good governance nor best practise. Going forward, we must ensure we do appropriate risk assessments and have all the facts before taking a position. In our drive to get the pier finished and move on, let’s ensure we do right by the people we do business with, safeguard the city’s reputation and protect taxpayer dollars.
The pier will cost $15 million, excluding legal fees and staff time spent on the project, based on a budget presented last week at council’s Community Services Committee meeting. The committee (myself excluded) supported an additional $5.7 million for this phase of the project, planned for completion in 2013. The hope is to recoup some of these cost overruns through legal action. The recommendation needs a final vote at council July 4.
My take: Like you, I’m disappointed in the cost and time to complete this project, I’m concerned about the growing legal bill, and think the pier money is better spent on other priorities. But we are on this path now. My commitment is to ensuring that we stick to the new timeline and budget, and maintain openness and accountability. Making the budget public is a step in the right direction. We need to do the same with our legal fees, staff time spent on the project, and the costs of other options considered by council, back to the original offer from the contractor in September 2010. I would also consider demolition if the bids are unacceptable.
Can pier legals likewise be released?
The city of Waterloo has been forced by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to publicly release the amount of its legal costs in an ongoing legal battle over the financing for a park development. Until now, officials have insisted costs would only be willingly disclosed once the lawsuits are settled.
A resident gave me a copy of the news article about the case at our Ward 2 Citizens Advisory Committee last week.
“Just change the word ‘park’ for ‘pier’,” she said, advocating for voluntary release of our own legal bill on the pier design dispute.
My take: Given this ruling, I support the city voluntarily releasing its legal fees, and immediately releasing the value of staff time spent on this project.
Next update: April 20, Community Services Com., 6:30pm, City Hall
You could have heard a pin drop in council chambers when senior staff revealed in March that the retender package for the pier likely won’t go to market till mid-July, with tenders not expected back till Sept. 26. That means this process will cost the city a year. Remember the previous council voted to retender last September!
I didn’t vote to retender the pier because of these kinds of delays. I’m also concerned about continuing our legal battle, which may end up being a Pyrrhic victory: we could win, but at what cost to delays, transparency and legal fees?
My take: I’m glad council and the public will now get regularly scheduled updates on the pier. I still hold out hope that the parties to this dispute will come back to the negotiating table before the tender goes out, and offer a reasonable solution to finish the pier, either with the current contractor or a consortium of other contractors. I’ve always preferred a negotiated settlement to a litigated one – so long as it protects taxpayers and delivers a quality, cost-effective project.
My take: The re-tender process and the litigation pose significant risks in cost and time delays to taxpayers, so I could not support it. I also believe a deal could have been reached with the contractor. Your feedback also influenced my decision. Since I wrote about this in January, dozens of you, including residents with significant experience in construction, engineering and law, have told me your prefer a negotiated settlement and abandonment of the legal action.
Burlington councillors had our first briefing on the pier in December with legal counsel – and unfortunately without the public allowed. That must change.
But there really wasn’t much we learned that was new. The options before us remain the same: tear out the pier, complete it with the current contractor, or re-tender the project. As to costs, regardless of the option we choose, it will be more than any of us will want to pay for this nice-to-have project.
The pier is over-budget and more than two years behind schedule. We need solutions not inaction or lawsuits.
The pier in Burlington’s downtown waterfront has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The City says the contractor is at fault – but do we know the whole story?