I keep hearing Ms. Dugmore blame the accelerated schedule as one of the main reasons for consistent cost overruns on the Thunder Bay waterfront development. (Report 2010-197) Listening to her, you would expect the project to be abuzz with activity. The human equivalent of an ant hill. Equipment and workers moving and digging and hauling at an astonishing rate. This is not the case. I know what a busy work site looks like. The waterfront has never been busy. Never.
I believe the system goes something like this. A tender gets awarded. It gets worked on. When that tender is almost completed, another tender gets awarded. That tender gets worked on. When that tender is almost done, another gets awarded ….and so on. The pace of work seems to be rather leisurely. Just ask any worker in the Government Building across Water Street. I talk with them all the time. They do not see any sense of urgency on that construction site. Even when the March 2011 deadline was looming, there was no big push for completion. No extended hours. No extra shifts. No night work. Six days a week operation with Sundays off.
If the schedule of construction was so demanding, then why is almost all the work being done by only a few companies? Nadin Contracting, Wilco Landscape Contractors and ManShield Construction have been working on the construction sit on a continual basis since day one. Nadin Contracting seems to be a sub-contractor on several tenders. As does Wilco. It almost looks like the schedule is set to allow the same companies to do work on various tenders without causing any undo hardship on the companies. At least, that is what it looks like to me, and I am down there everyday. If the scheduled work was so demanding, would there not be more companies working on the construction site? Lots more?
I don’t see contractors hiring more workers. I don’t see contractors bring in more equipment. What I see is a group of contractors that see a chance to make a financial killing on the back of the taxpayers…again. Large government projects are like owning a goose that lays golden eggs to a contractor. Large government funded projects always go over budget. Look at the hospital. City Hall renos. The sewage treatment plant. Why you ask? Its because of changes. Contractors LOVE changes. Changes to a tender are like putting extra cash right into the pocket of contractors. This project has LOTS and LOTS of changes. Lots and lots of mistakes. The entire project is basically a design-as -you- go project. There has been how many tenders awarded that did not involve some changes? One? Two? The other thing that makes large government projects like a golden egg laying goose is that no matter how much extra the project costs, the government will ALWAYS pay. The money is guaranteed to be there. Look at the hospital. The sewage treatment plant. City Hall. The courthouse will also go over budget.
The waterfront development is an ATM for the lucky contractors that are involved. The lucky few. In the end, we will have spent over $50M on that project. We will not get $50M worth of product. No. We will get, maybe $30M? The rest of the money will be walking out through the gate.
The truth is that this project is being mismanaged on a colossal scale. Large sums of money are thrown at any problem that arises. Whatever planning was done was very poor. Items such as site security and safety seem to be ignored right from the start. When the money runs out, Dugmore comes back to council and ask for more. Every time she asks, she tells council it will be the last time.
As I said, no matter how much extra the project costs, the government ALWAYS pays. And so it goes.