Pier completion on track, but troubling questions remain

Tender bids publicly opened Aug. 26, 2pm, City Hall

Update Aug. 31, Community Services Comm. 6:30pm, City Hall

Burlington's unfinished pierThe retender for the pier is on track with bids expected to be opened publicly this Friday at City Hall. We’re all hoping this will restart the project toward successful completion, and many of you have contacted me to say you’re looking forward to this addition to our waterfront.

I’ve also heard from residents concerned with the escalating cost, a concern I share when we have more important priorities – including the newly announced redevelopment of our hospital.

Some residents want the pier demolished, and certainly it’s a nice to have, not a need to have.

The majority view on council and among residents is toward completion. I supported negotiating with a willing contractor as the most timely and cost effective approach, and did not vote for the retender or the additional $5.8m budget. Now that we are on the retender path, I will work to ensure its success.

But our drive to complete the pier can’t come at any price to the taxpayer and the city’s reputation. Events over the summer – including a dispute that threatened to derail the retender process – have raised troubling questions about how this process is unfolding that deserve transparency and accountability to taxpayers.

Pier trestle dispute

A dispute arose with Bermingham, who built the temporary trestle used to construct the pier, over outstanding payments and potential use of the trestle by new contractors.

The retender documents initially said contractors would not be able to use the trestle. Bermingham was told to remove it, and as a subcontractor on the project seek any outstanding funds from the original contractor, Harm Schilthuis & Sons. (Read news articles here and here, and city’s statement here). The situation delayed bid openings three times as contractors asked about using the trestle – potentially cheaper than building a new one or using alternative methods.

After it became clear the dispute put the retender at risk, the city reached an agreement with Bermingham to allow contractors to use the trestle. (Read the city’s press release here).

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.

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