Anatomy of the Farmer’s Market renovation cock-up

September 25, 2013

Thanks to an intrepid GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) operative, it reveals the back-story of the how the $500,000 Farmer’s Market renovation went so terribly wrong.

Let’s start with the City of Guelph website that contains a link to the Request For Proposal (RFP) that was issued in June. It is 147 pages long and is obviously a computerized standard RFP document in which the individual project details are filled in.

We did learn that BJC architects Inc., was hired to do specific design details as specified by the city staff. Not included was the basic requirement for exhaust fume hoods and ventilation or a sprinkler system.

There were many changes in the bid to reduce the cost to meet the limit of $500,000. It was apparent early on that staff wanted the main renovation funding to replace the floor. In fact they had a specific contractor chosen to do the job. They got their way.

Mario Petricevic, General Manager Corporate Building Maintenance and Rod Keller, General Manager of Public Works apparently oversaw the renovation specifications.  Chances are they were not alone, as we will discover. It should be common knowledge that a fire suppression system is a basic requirement in public buildings, particularly those in which the public has access.

So the renovated building is opened and certain vendors were told they had to cook outside. The reason given was the building was not up to the fire code. Keep in mind that before the city decided to renovate the Market, it allowed vendors to prepare hot food. It even granted the concession to one who cooked breakfast fare for early morning shoppers.  This time around, the single concession of the city was to install an oven, no cook top, in the vendor’s area.  Ever cook bacon and eggs in an oven?

Peter Avgoustis, Manager, Business Services Community and Social Services, replied to enquiries about this situation. His emails reveal how the project, initiated in mid-2012, became a bureaucratic maze of mistakes, bad judgment and ignorance of what the public needed.

Here is an email from Avgoustis responding to a resident: “You are correct in your assumption regarding, the food vendors as that is a fire code issue. With the recent events at the St Jacob’s Market, the province has stepped up enforcement of these facilities since our Market never had the proper fire suppression or ventilation system in place.”

If this is true, is it a lame excuse or dereliction of responsibility? For years the Market operated without such equipment and without any safety issues. To ignore modern building fire code regulations in a $500,000 retrofit is a dereliction of responsibility. If a wake up call was ever needed, the St. Jacob’s fire is a good example.

But these decisions were made long before the St. Jacob’s Market fire. Examining the specifications in the contract the fume ductwork was removed from the bid. It was one of several compromises made so the $500,000 maximum cost could be met.

But Mr. Avgoustis continues his explanatory email: “Were a hood and fire suppression system are required we are assisting the vendors in getting the appropriate design, pricing and permits in an effort to expedite the installation of this equipment should they WISH TO PURCHASE IT AND HAVE IT INSTALLED.”

So they are saying it’s not our fault there is no fire suppression system but regardless, you (vendors) can’t cook indoors … unless you pay for it.

This is nothing but sheer incompetence of those bureaucrats responsible for this exercise that has left the public completely out of the picture for three months and destroyed any credibility they may have salvaged.

The capper is they are holding a party Saturday, September 28 to celebrate the re-opening of the Guelph Farmer’s Market. Wonder if the Mayor will turn up?

But don’t expect bacon and eggs.

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7 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “Anatomy of the Farmer’s Market renovation cock-up

  1. rena

    Once more it shows the total incompetence of City staff. I guess this is what happens when the inmates take over the institution.

  2. KS

    Spira Fire Protection of Guelph has been awarded the contract to design, supply and install automatic fire sprinklers in a temporary facility that is being constructed at the St. Jacobs Market. This facility may only be used to house the fenders for a year, however they will be safe from fire. It could be worth the short drive?

  3. Glen N. Tolhurst

    The phrase “dog’s breakfast” springs to mind when reading about the complete snafu regarding the Farmer’s Market reno. Where is Mike Holmes when he’s needed, Eh?

  4. Paul

    Sad Sad Days for Guelph/
    The Farbridge administration will go down as the most incompetent one in the history of Guelph. In the meantime she has added more than 400 staff positions and I bet most of them are F0F appointees. Having spent $500 milion to upgrade the building without addressing fire code and ventilation issues is bad enough, But then to say that the number one priority is a new and bigger Market is a priority just shows you the madness of this Mayor’s agenda. Thank God that the next municipal election is just a year away

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