Council votes to re-tender pier project

pierdelaysignCouncil has voted to find a new contractor to complete the pier, after learning this week that the bonding company for the current contractor has rejected the city’s claim on the $3.5 million bond to finish the project.

That left the city with two options: complete the pier with the current contractor, and pay for additional costs without relief from the bond; or find a new contractor and pay the additional costs, while maintaining the city’s lawsuit against all parties to this dispute (including the contractor, design engineer, bonding company and others), hoping to recover costs through court action.

Council chose the latter course, with one dissenting vote (mine) and one member absent (John Taylor). Council felt that a clean break with the existing contractor and engineer was the best way for the city to keep its legal options open and move beyond the current deadlock.

This course of action was essentially a continuation of steps put in motion last September, when negotiations for the contractor failed to produce an agreement, and council at that time voted to retender. That process was effectively put on hold because of the election, and council returned to it this week.

I’ve now seen the details of the original September HSS offer, which was reissued with minor modifications in January. In my view reaching an agreement would not have been insurmountable, and I would have liked us to try harder to do that. In fact the contractor repeatedly requested meetings with council, and I asked that HSS be invited to speak to our meeting on Wednesday to provide additional information. But there wasn’t an openness or willingness from enough members of council to make that happen. I got the sense that minds had already been made up.

Going forward, the worst case scenario is that the re-tendering process will take several months to complete and add to our costs and timelines. Bids could come back at significant additional costs – if anyone bids at all on this project (given the pier’s well-known troubles, other bona fide contractors may take a pass). Bids could be well above the amount of the redesign proposal offered by the current contractor (the metaphor of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush comes to mind here). Our legal bill will escalate and that money could be spent on finishing the pier. And finally, the legal process itself compromises our ability to be transparent and accountable with taxpayers.

There’s no certainty that the city will recover its costs through legal action. The design engineer blames the contractor for faulty concrete pouring; the contractor blames the engineer for poor design. The city is leaving this in the hands of the courts to render a decision, or lawyers to cut a deal with the various parties. In the end, we may never know who is at fault and costs may simply be apportioned against all parties, including the city.

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.

Council and senior staff are counting on the best case scenario here: that the new bids for the pier project come in at reasonable cost, the shovel is in the ground this fall, and the city wins recovery of cost overruns in the courts. For taxpayers’ sake, I sincerely hope it turns out that way, and as a member of council I will do whatever I can to make it so.


Councillor Marianne Meed Ward
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  1. Its sickening to think we just walk away from the original parties who screwed this up while the taxpayers have to again foot the bill for a mess THEY caused….but we are at the point of no return with this albatross. You can debate the moot point of whether the project was a good idea until the fish spawn but the fact remains; its there, lets finish this embarrassing chapter and move on with hopefully lessons learned.

  2. I find this whole project distasteful and purely an exercise in self aggrandizement by certain members of council. Where the mayor gets his so-called verbal support for furthering this project, boggles the mind.I have yet to find any support for continuing this financial and architectural monstrosity. The common reply is to cut and run. The former mayor advised me that the pier would bring comment to Burlington as a community. It certainly has, a laughing stock to everyone…….. I praise your decision to vote NO, on this pier project.Now, if you could garner additional council support, we might save the City millions.Might you have similar concerns about the following;Residential assessment for the joe brant. Province will never support it!!!!!!!!!!1Mcmaster bus. school.5 Million dollars gone to encourage foreign enrollment (cash cow for mac)!!BAC .When will it become self sufficient .Do I hear Nada A 35.0 million dollar boondoggle for the local elite, with a 700.0 thousand dollar annual support package by the City Sell it to the private sector ASAP.!!!!!!!! Get Council and staff to spend taxpayer money more frugally. Set up a system where the average taxpayer gets to approve a project before it is wheels up .Thanx for listening. I have been a taxpayer for over 30 years. Things in the past were never like this.It is getting to the point where I have to seriously consider selling my home because of the taxes and a fixed income.chris harveyburlington ont

  3. Marianne:Once again I feel you were right and the rest wrong. Now we are stuck with a half done pier. If you were paying for an addition to your house and the same type of thing happened the last thing you would do is fire the contractor and hire another. Not knowing if you would ever recover the original money paid out. This is an example of people spending money that isn’t theirs. Another example of people who know nothing about business. Especially City business.Don

  4. Marianne – While I never thought the pier was something we needed, good work getting
    it on it’s way to a resolution. You are doing a great job.


  5. This has been a fumble by city staff ,and the more practical means to get this eyesore finished is to work out an honest deal with the original contractor who got stuck in the middle of this goof by the engineers and city Robert B

  6. Marianne: I agree – that the re-tender process and the litigation will add considerable costs and even more time delays. I too think that an agreement could have (and should have) been reached with the contractor.

  7. Marianne,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your stance on the pier. The fact that HSS is willing to continue with the project, correcting deficiencies speaks volumes. In my humble opinion this would certainly be the least expensive and most expedient way of completing the project.

    I agree with the respondent who says that anyone else who might bid on a re-tender, knowing the situation would bid high. I think that most would pass on bidding knowing the history. A second more objective, detached and impartial legal opinion would be well worth the money.

    Great job…….

    Ian Coney

  8. I also am aware that HSS attempted several times to negotiate directly with City. Why were they not permitted to SPEAK? In my opinion, it would have been better to work it out with them.

    I also agree with the other poster who says it is worrisome that the bonding company would not honor the bond. That should tell Council a great deal.

    I also think any company that picks this up is going to be VERY aware and somewhat leery of the public spotlight, legal positions and growing public distaste for this whole ‘mess’: these factors will be built into their price. Meaning, it won’t be at ‘cost’ with a reasonable mark-up as per industry, it will be HIGH to compensate the obvious added ‘agra’. Few will touch it with ‘pleasure’.

    Finally, if the ‘issue’ IS the design, what is to prevent the next contractor from using the same excuse if things go awry? (Heaven forbid.) I don’t mean to be pessimistic here, but seriously, I do agree that it would have been better to sort it out with the original ‘sign ons’.

    I also don’t think it would hurt to get a second ‘legal opinion’ about all this BEFORE you sign on with any new team. Perhaps City Legal is not the right ones to offer a ‘open eyed’ assessment.

    Ultimately, and either way, it looks like taxpayers will be on the hook for this one. If nothing else, it might give City pause before jumping into additional ‘capital works’ projects’ under terms and conditions that they haven’t properly monitored and/or evaluated.

    Keep at it Marianne. You got ‘Hurricane Hazel’ potential!!!

  9. Your ” bird in the hand ” quote could end ” bird in hand makes mess on wrist ! ”

    After all of this legal wrangling and cost over the ” PIER “, do we really need a pier ? It will not do anything in practical terms for our already popular and attractive city , in my view . Throwing good money after bad never did make sense nor does it now.

    Give our Canadian forces engineering troops an excellent training arena ; demolish it, with the appropriate ‘ pomp and ceremony ‘ !

    You are doing a great job by the way……………….Keep it up and thanks.


  10. You are so right. Thank goodness the residents of Burlington & especially Ward 2 have you working for them. You listen to OUR concerns & take input from the Community rather than expressing your own personal opinions. Keep up the good work. Bev Jacobs

  11. I agree with your stand Marianne. As a resident of Ward 3, based on earlier comments by my Councillor, John Taylor who was absent, I think he might have sided with you as well. The legal route will take years to resolve and looking to the past, will not likely help us recover costs. I would much rather have had the original contractor finish the job with proper oversight. Gary Scobie

What's your take?