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Centennial Park project delayed again as price tag hits double

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Troy Shantz and George Mathewson

The reopening of Centennial Park is delayed again and the mounting cost of its reconstruction has hit twice the initial estimate.

Following several earlier missed deadlines, City Hall said in January the park’s remediation would be complete this week, with the east end and playground opening May 26. and the boat ramps and west side on June 2.

But this week, the park remained out of service and city staff requested another $700,000 from council Monday to cover more unforeseen restoration work.

“It’s still a construction site and you can see the fencing is still up,” said city CAO Margaret Misek-Evans.

“That will be sort of changing over the next couple of weeks as they complete the park in stages, and we will update as we go.”

Centennial Park was closed in 2013 after oil, asbestos and lead were found in the soil, likely from industrial fill dumped there in the 1960s.

On the advice of consultants, and following public consultations, council agreed to a three-phase process that was predicted to cost $4.5 million to $6 million.

With the extra money requested this week the bill has reached $11.7 million, and that doesn’t include a new crosswalk entrance on Front Street or ongoing expenses arising from a problematic boat launch that is from complete.

Retrofitting a launch at Bridgeview Marina to accommodate boaters for this spring’s Sarnia Salmon Derby cost $8,000.

And negotiations are underway for the city to cover the ongoing expense of providing attendants to manage traffic and assist boaters at the marina on busy weekends.

The existing municipal boat launches on Sarnia Bay were removed last year to accommodate park reconstruction. But staff acknowledged in a report last week they has no idea when the new ramps might be installed.

Most of the remediation is done, and a special event is planned for June 17 to highlight the park’s new amenities.

What remains unfinished, however, includes the creation of a berm from stockpiled material on The Point Lands, a new performance stage and gathering area, the rebuilding and paving of parking lots on Front Street and Harbour Road, and final grading, topsoil and grass seeding.

Golder Associates is the project consultant on the job and Bre-Ex Construction was hired as the contractor.

London-based Bre-Ex has a 50-year history of successful work on roads, sewers and pumping stations, but missing from its online portfolio is any marine work like the boat launch in Centennial Park.

All previous attempts to build cofferdams in Sarnia Bay failed, but Misek-Evans said a new strategy is in the works.

“There are challenges with respect to holding back the water, and the soil conditions there are presenting some technical issues for them to overcome,” she said.

“They are developing and considering alternatives.”

She also defended the work of the companies involved, saying they have been “very diligent.”

Meanwhile, organizers are preparing to host a series of summer events in Centennial starting with the Sarnia Kinsmen Ribfest on July 7.

Spokesman Jack Struck said public feedback about the event’s return is positive and people are thankful it’s returning to the downtown area.

Nor is he concerned about the latest delay in the park’s reopening, he added.

“But when you drive by you kind of think to yourself, ‘holy cow” … we’ve gotta be in there and I don’t see any grass.”






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