A city of Toronto committee has voted to bar contractor Four Seasons Site Development from bidding on future contracts for three years after officials fired the company because it breached its College Street beautification contract last summer.

"I think it sends the message ... that if you do business with the city of Toronto and you bid on a contract that you are legally obligated to fulfil the contract to the best of your ability," said Coun. Paul Ainslie, chair of the Government Management Committee. 

"It's unfortunate we had to suspend a company. But first and foremost we have to protect our residents whether they're businesses or individuals."

Julie Fass and Julia Rapp

College Street business owners Julie Fass and Julia Rapp wanted Four Seasons Site Development to be suspended indefinitely for what Rapp describes as the 'war zone' on College Street last summer. (Michelle Cheung)

Some business owners on College Street say a three-year ban isn't long enough.

"Ideally, we hoped they would be barred from bidding on city contracts entirely," said Julia Rapp of Rapp Optical, a business on College Street. "This company has clearly demonstrated that they put their own priorities before the needs of the businesses that employ them." 

She estimated she lost 30 to 40 per cent of her business last summer when Four Seasons had the sidewalks torn up in front of her store.

People couldn't access her store and had to walk blocks to find parking, said Rapp.

"Elderly people and people with strollers couldn't get into the store. They had to walk up a precipitous plank with no railing sometimes, so it was problematic to say the least."

Last year's contract included replacing the sidewalks with interlocking brick, planting new trees, and furniture on both sides of College Street between Shaw Street and Havelock Street..

Instead it turned into something that looked slightly ... I use the word 'war zone' advisedly," said Rapp.

Warning for others

The local business improvement area paid the more than $3-million cost of the project with the help of a city of Toronto loan.

The city brought in Four Seasons to do the work but terminated the agreement in October 2016 due to "unsatisfactory performance on the Contract and failure to correct the defaults."

College Street

The city said there were 101 deficiencies that plagued the project to beautify College Street, causing some business owners to lose 30 to 40 percent of their summer business. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

"We will get the work done. It will be fixed. We will move on. but what about other city areas? What about other BIAs?" asked Julie Fass, owner of a gift and retail store on College Street and a member of the College Promenade BIA. "

Fass said nobody went out of business because they halted the construction.

"Had this been continued over the fall months into the winter, i think it would have affected people for the long run for sure."

First time this contractor was sanctioned

Four Seasons has never been suspended from a city contract before.

"It's a really unfortunate stand that the [Government Management Committee] has taken," said Rohit Bansal, CEO of Four Seasons Site Development. 

In his deputation to the committee, Bansal said the primary reason for the delay on working on the north side of College Street was that the Ministry of Labour barred the company from doing work from July until September, because of suspected soil contamination 

Bansal said he could not reach city engineers to address deficiencies in design, or to figure out how to speed up the process and come up with an alternative course of action.

He said the bulk of the Brampton-based company's work has come from city contracts for the last 10 years.

The committee's decision must be approved by full council later this month for it to come into effect.

"Our employees would definitely like the opportunity to continue working,' said Bansal. "It would be unfortunate for the council to have them not work in the city of Toronto for the next three years."

Currently, two companies — MTM Landscape Contractors and Serve Construction — are disqualified from bidding on contracts in the city.