In news that’s giving City Hall watchers serious flashbacks involving the word “Urbacon”, the general contractor working on the $34 million renovation of the Guelph Police Service headquarters has been removed from the project. The City of Guelph assures us though that this is not the same as the 2010 debacle that resulted in millions of dollars being paid out to the contractor who was fired from the 1 Carden Street construction project a decade ago.
According to a press release from City Hall late Tuesday, City staff notified the general contractor on the Guelph Police headquarters renovation that they were “ending the general contractor’s involvement with the project.” The contract administer for the project informed the City in writing on June 9 about “deficiency concerns”, which prompted the decision to remove the contractor.
Having said, the City is firm that, “Ending the general contractor’s work on the project is not a termination of the contract.” In terms of next phases, the City will be working with the bonding agent to bring in a new project manager to right the ship, correct the deficiencies, and finish the renovations, which are now more than a year overdue.
Construction began on Guelph Police headquarters in spring 2016. The goal of the project was to create more space for the growing service, and to bring the building up to modern code for accessibility and environmental standards. The project was funded with $14.8 million from development charges, $3 million from the tax-funded Police Capital reserve fund, and $16.3 million in tax-funded debt.
The project was meant to take advantage of new, more-stricter oversight requirements implemented by the City after an Ontario Superior Court ruled that the administration at the time had wrongfully dismissed the contractor Urbacon Buildings Group Corp. in 2008 when the construction of the new City Hall building and the renovation of the old City Hall both ran late and over-budget. The City spent an extra $8.3 million to finish the project, and spent $2.2 million on legal costs when Urbacon took them to court, and that was before the court ordered a settlement of $6.6 million to Urbacon in 2014.
As a Tier 1 project, the City has been posting quarterly reports on the progress of the renovations at Police headquarters. The last report in March of this year said that the project was within scope even though the project was supposed to be completed sometime between February and June 2019. The new completion date is this coming September.
The City has not released how much the project might overrun in terms of costs, but the March report says that 97 per cent of the construction work is complete and 96 per cent of the total budget has been spent.
While those issues are getting sorted out, perhaps Guelphites can take solace that we’re not the only ones waiting for this particular contractor to finish a big civil construction project.
This past March, Jasper Contracting, the contractor that’s been working on the Police headquarters renovation, was still working on a renovation of the East Lions Community Centre in London that was due to be finished last spring according to reporting by the CBC. Then, just last week, the Lambton Kent District School Board terminated it’s contract with Jasper after repeated delays on a new secondary school.
UPDATE – July 2, 7 pm.
Mayor Cam Guthrie has released an official statement about the Police headquarters renovation. “As your Mayor, I take this situation very seriously and can assure you that our staff does too. City administration has kept Council updated as events unfolded,” he said in a statement posted Thursday afternoon.
Guthrie pointed to media reports about Jasper as one of the reasons he’s glad that the move was made, and added that he still believes in the “rigorous project management processes” that the City has in place, and has been used with success on both the Victoria Road Rec Centre renovation and the Market Parkade construction.
“This situation is unfortunate; we would all prefer this important project be completed by now. But I believe in our project management processes and our staff’s ability to make good decisions for our community,” Guthrie added. “That means that when we do finally cut the ribbon on this project, we’ll be doing so for a facility that we can all be proud of, and that will serve our community for years to come.”