City “dismisses” Golder as Centennial cost soars to $13.5M

One of the most controversial decisions of the Centennial Park remediation project has been the removal of the city’s only municipal boat launch ramps, seen here in January, before new ones could be built. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

George Mathewson

Sarnia has dismissed the multinational corporation that administered the Centennial Park project and has opted to oversee construction itself of the final remaining piece – the long-delayed boat launch in Sarnia Bay.

Following a closed-door meeting Monday council emerged to say it had decided to “dismiss” Golder Associates as the contract administrator due to “unsatisfactory performance.”

But before being shown the door, Golder and its subsidiaries did OK by the city, earning more than $1 million from the project, according to Coun. Dave Boushy.

“It seems to me, right from the beginning, we were on the wrong path,” Boushy told The Journal.

“Golder was responsible for some of it but we (city council) could have said to them, ‘You’re spending too much money.’”

Council also voted Monday to pay Bre-Ex Construction up to $682,000 in additional funding to complete the stalled boat ramps in Sarnia Bay.

The new spending was approved in 6-2 vote, with Boushy and Mayor Mike Bradley opposed.

Bre-Ex tried three times last fall to build cofferdams in the bay, and each time water seeped back in before the dock foundation could be installed.

It would cost another $2.23 million to build boat ramps “in the dry,” according to a new staff estimate. So the city is instead proceeding with an alternative design that doesn’t require “dewatering” the site.

If the weather cooperates the launch could be ready in 10 to 12 weeks, city staff say.

The total bill for Centennial Park has now reached $13.54 million — including $2.6 million for new infrastructure. That’s more than twice the original estimate, and doesn’t include what the city owes Bridgeview Marina for providing the community with interim boating services this year.

Mayor Bradley said an independent, third party audit is needed to determine what went wrong.

“I believe there should be a full audit. And not just of the spending, but of the decisions made, because there have been decisions made that have come back to haunt us over and over again,” the mayor said.

“In my view … the diligence of council needs to apply to staff to make a project successful, and it was missing.”

Golder Associates is a Canadian success story, providing consulting, design, construction and environment services from more than 180 offices on six continents.

But the public grew increasingly impatient as the cost of the Centennial Park project rose and numerous deadlines were missed.

Each part of the project, including three phases of remediation, watermain work on Harbour Road and the environmental and design work, came in over budget.

Council approved another $250,000 from reserves just two weeks ago for fencing, security, vandalism and other things not covered in its contract with Golder and Bre-Ex.

Centennial Park was closed in 2013 after oil, asbestos and lead were found in the soil, probably from industrial fill dumped there in the 1960s. Following public consultations, council agreed to the three-phase process that was predicted to cost $4.5 million to $6 million.

Much of the 38-acre park has been re-graded and capped with fabric and layers of sand and soil, along with new amenities and a solid stone shoreline.

A new boat launch is the final piece. Boaters and anglers were angered after the old ramps were unexpectedly pulled out in January to accommodate park reconstruction before new ramps could be installed.

Some $400,000 has already been approved for the launch. The additional $682,000 will come from reserve accounts intended for the Business Park, waterfront development and improvements on Sarnia Bay.

Boushy, for one, doubts that will cover it.

“Trust me, they are going to come back and say they need more money,” he said.