How council gives citizens the mushroom treatment

Posted May 10, 2012

It all started in July 2006 when the Kate Quarrie administration approved a $42 million contract subsequently won by Urbacon as general contractor. The contract called for a new city hall to be built at a cost of $32,498,000 and to convert the old city hall into a provincial courthouse costing $9,502,000.

In the fall of 2006, the Quarrie council was swept out of office and replaced by former Mayor Karen Farbridge and 10 supporters.  Her majority was omnipotent with a huge majority of councillors dedicated to changing the city into their own image.

The contract for the two buildings was to be “substantially completed” by February 28, 2008. Subsequent negotiations extended the completion date to September 8, 2008, due in part to more than 350 change orders apparently demanded by the city staff.

The city fired Urbacon on that date because it claimed the contract had not been substantially completed. Chief executioner was Chief Administration Officer, Hans Loewig ,who is no longer working for the city.

It was revealed that members of council had no oversight of this major project. Change decisions were made by the city staff.

On October 9, 2008, Urbacon sued the city for breach of contract claiming  $20 million in damages. The city counter-sued Urbacon for $5 million.

Urbacon claimed the city delayed completion of the project because of hundreds of change orders.

For its part, the city was concerned about expiring leases in buildings, housing public workers, that made the move-in date uncertain. It was revealed that council had ”lost faith in Urbacon’s ability to deliver.”

Here’s where it get sticky.

When all this was going on, the public was left in the dark. All it knew was the builder had been fired by Loewig with little or no explanation.

In the past three and a half years, many subcontractors were not paid by Urbacon resulting in 19 liens against our brand new city hall.

Under the Construction Loan Act, the city withheld $3.2 million and was ordered to pay it to the court. The city and Urbacon agreed to pay $2,370,963 to those subcontractors who filed liens against the city hall project.

In addition, the city also paid another $3,385,205 directly to some subcontractors to complete their work and finish the building.

The city has stated that it is suing the consultant hired to manage the project and the insurer providing the performance bond. That suit is on hold until the city’s trial with Urbacon is settled.

In the fall there will be a non-binding mediation between the city and Urbacon in an attempt to settle their differences. If this fails, a trial is set for January 21, 2013.

Added to this complex array of misadventures was the city hiring Collaborative Structures of Cambridge to convert the old city hall into a provincial courthouse. Details of that contract have never been revealed including the cost.

The fumbling of creating a new city hall and provincial court has created a stunning series of administration errors and with little culpability directed at the decision makers. It will probably take a forensic audit to determine the end cost of the new city hall.

The cost to the city of hiring lawyers still working their way through this swamp of litigation has yet to be revealed.

Instead the public, those paying the bills, is given the mushroom treatment to function in the dark without knowing how their city is being managed, or mismanaged as seems to be the unfolding case

This mess is classic Farbridge.  The citizens are left in the dark because too much of the public’s business is conducted behind closed doors or off-site.

It is noted that even mushrooms eventually see the light of day.

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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “How council gives citizens the mushroom treatment

  1. Jerry

    Very true in the fact we will never know the true costs.This mediation that
    is taken place is a joke.We all know it will be worked out and the press
    release will read “the disclosure of the settlement can not be made public”.
    Just like the other lawsuits that have been settled out side of court.
    It will all be left to the new mayor to clean up the farbridge mess,just like the last
    time with Kate Quarrie.

    • Jerry: You’ve nailed it. The mayor is supposed to be the leader in council but the situation we are experiencing is the mayor controlling a majority in council. All it would take is a couple of her supporters to start voting with their heads instead of parroting the Farbridge directives when council votes.

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