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Grightmire arena fiasco laid out in painful detail

Grightmire arena fiasco laid out in painful detail

It seemed like everything that could go wrong with the renovations to the J. Grightmire arena did. That was the upshot of a 51-page report by the City’s Auditor Charles Brown. It was supposed to be a $7 Million renovation that would be completed between the end of the 2017 hockey season and the beginning of the 2018 season, but by December of 2018 the project was still only 80 percent complete. Two months were lost negotiating over who was at fault for the delays and finally the contractor was given a deadline extension to the end of April 2019. When that deadline was not met the city pulled some items out of the contract to be finished by the city. The work was finished in June 2019. Instead of the planned loss of one season of hockey Dundas had lost two. The community was outraged.

Sifting through the entrails of the mess, Auditor Brown’s Key findings included:

  • The 17-month timeline was too tight for a successful completion unless everything went perfectly which it did not.
  • The city lost four months at the beginning in producing the tender document. A contract was supposed to be signed in April was not signed until the end of August, leaving only 12 months to complete the work.
  • The contactor that won the bid (CGI) came in $800,000 lower than the next lowest bid and was even over a million dollars lower that what had been budgeted for the job. Despite the red flag, the contract was awarded on the basis of lowest bid even though there had been trouble with the same contractor on a previous job with the city. The auditor recommended a vendor rating system to weed out poor-performing contractors who might try to low-ball bids to get the work, and then try to make up the difference by negotiating extra-work orders.
  • As the work got off to a start, residents noted days when there was no work being done. Then the Ministry of Labour put a one-month stop-order on the project, eating up another month.
  • CGI didn’t pay its subcontractors who then put a $4 million lien against the city.
  • The auditor concluded the city did not have a risk management strategy to deal with a contract like this one,
  • The timeline was unrealistic and was dictated by pressure from the hockey community. Staff were aware the schedule was not likely to be met but did not share with council, particularly the local councillor Arlene Vanderbeek who was the point person for much of the criticism from the community.

A key recommendation was that staff who are managing contracts be given better training. In the case of the Grightmire the staff person responsible was looking after a dozen other projects. The report noted that the contract language provided  several opportunities for the city to impose penalties on the contractor or two declare the projects in default that were not taken. It also recommended that the designer of the project should not be given the job of administering the contract as was the case with the Dundas project,

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