Posted March 29, 2013
Yet another bombshell was dropped at the multi-million dollar civil trial between Urbacon Building Group, contractor of the new city hall and the City of Guelph.
City Engineer Murray McCrae testified the decision to fire Urbacon for failure to meet a completion deadline was not made by one person. Instead, he named Mayor Karen Farbridge, former Chief Administration Officer (CAO) Hans Loewig, now retired solicitor Lois Payne, and some unnamed members of council who were involved in the decision.
Obviously, the buck had to stop with Mayor Farbridge.
The city was determined to occupy the new city hall in September 2008. McCrae testified the costs of storage, moving and expiring building leases could see the city losing $15,000 a day.
Another reason given was that Urbacon would take another nine months to renovate the old city hall into a provincial court house. This project was part of the original contract.
Let’s see if we get this straight.
The new city hall was 95 per cent complete. Urbacon has stated that another 60 days would finish the job. Urbacon lawyer Marco Drudi commented that “a two month delay on a two year job is inconsequential.”
Drudi told the court that CAO Loewig sent an email to Urbacon which said he was ”hopeful” that the city would be able to move into the new city hall by early 2009.
The CAO went on to state: “Like you, I’m frustrated but the setback is far from monumental and we have to keep in mind that we are building a long-term legacy and the delays are inconsequential.”
So, who pulled the plug and tossed Urbacon off the job? With the exception of McCrae, of those persons he identified as participating in the decision, one had to make the final decision.
It had to be the Mayor, the top elected official of the city. Who else was qualified? To top it off, none of those named has been called as witnesses in the trial.
The irony is that the city hired Burlington-based Alberici Construction limited to finish the job. That cost or its deadline has never been revealed.
Did the city ever experience losses of $15,000 a day as McCrae testified because of its actions to fire Urbacon before the project was completed? The city’s costs of this nine-week trial will eclipse that predicted loss.
This is another unanswered question for the taxpayers to ponder.
From the day Mayor Farbridge and her 10 supporting councillors took office, this project was doomed. Not only were the changes many but some fundamentally changed the whole project including the decision to upgrade the environmental standards of the building.
The city argued that they sent “change directives” to the contractor that created delays and increased frustration levels. When does a “change directive” become a “change order”?
Two events come to mind. One was the $100,000 retrofit of the green roof demanded by the city. The other was removal of the sound deadening materials throughout the building to save $1 million.
It reminds one of putting seven people in a boardroom to design a horse and they end up with a camel.
It is yet another example of mismanagement by the Farbridge administration.
They are, indeed the gang that can’t shoot straight.