Rusty steel stalls as contractor waits for better steel

With last year’s awarding of a contract to finish off the Brant Street Pier in Burlington, the expectation was that there would be significant construction progress this year, but so far it hasn’t happened. Neither Dofasco nor Stelco manufacture the type of steel required for girders at Burlington’s long-delayed waterfront pier. So,Graham/Jardeg, the new contractor, ordered 19 steel plates offshore, but because the steel was not up to snuff, almost no work was done on the pier during a spring that produced ideal weather for construction.

“We have a quality assurance program whereby the contractor has to supply us with mill tests.” said the City’s Craig Stevens, project manager for the pier. “In this case the steel didn’t pass the tests.”

However, the contractor was able to get the 19 steel plates required for production from North American suppliers Algoma Steel and Chapel Steel.

City manager Jeff Fielding said the steel has to be of the highest quality.

“The girders are going to be constructed from the steel in a shop in Kitchener and will be delivered by the end of the July. Hopefully we will have a clear run for a while then.”

The normal process of oxidation already has resulted in reinforced steel, in place in concrete at the pier, sticking up like rusted bayonets. But the City said the contractor plans to clean all the rust off by scraping or sandblasting it.

Stevens said he is optimistic some more concrete will be poured before Labour Day.

“If we get a winter like we did last year, we’ll be able to work all winter,” he said. “We hope total completion will be issued to Graham/Jardeg before next year’s Sound of Music Festival.”

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward is upset because staff knew about this delay months ago and withheld the information from council and residents, many of whom had contacted her to ask why no work was commencing on the pier despite the mild spring.

Fielding has admitted staff had erred in not informing council back in February or March that it had some concerns. Staff will now be providing updates on the pier every three weeks, instead of every six weeks.

The original pier, approved in 2006, included a marina and a wind turbine, on an elevated deck with a lit beacon surrounding it. The budget was in the range of $6 million. The current budget for the project is almost $15 million. That’s without either the marina or the turbine, which have been cancelled.

At one time there were plans to have 44 day-slips for boats, as well as a commercial dock to accommodate tour boats.

The latest delay associated with improper steel is one of a series that has plagued the project. Construction of the pier began in the fall of 2006, with in-water work beginning in March 2007. In August of 2008, a crane toppled over just after problems with a concrete pour in July of that year had been discovered.

Then in the summer of 2009, there were more problems with the quality of steel in the structure.

Some ratepayers are so tired of the whole mess they have suggested the pier be dismantled, but Mayor Rick Goldring said it would cost about the same to scrap it as to finish it. For one thing, the City would have to refund $6.9 million it received in funding from three different levels of government.

“We’re going down the path of finishing the pier,” the mayor said. The idea of demolishing it is not on our radar.”

Meed Ward lost her battle to have the wind turbine kept in the project. However the savings will be set aside for a future renewable energy project, despite a protest by Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven who wanted it used for infrastructure work.

Still to be resolved are several lawsuits and counter-suits involving the City, the designer AECOM, the original contractor Harm Schilthuis and Sons and insurance companies.

“The bigger issue facing the community is the outstanding litigation,” Meed Ward said. “That’s a whole cloud over the city until it’s resolved.”

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