East Lions Community Centre is the talk of the neighbourhood again, but in a very different way

Already a year late with much work still to do, construction of the East Lions Community Centre has been fraught with challenges. Now they're hoping it will be done by spring.

A year late with much work to do, there is now a 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Originally slated for completion in spring of 2019, city staff are now saying they're hoping the community centre will open some time before spring of this year turns to summer. ( )

Through the window of his home office, Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis can see construction workers put the finishing touches on the East Lions Community Centre. 

Drywallers tape ceilings, delivery trucks drop off materials and workers climb ladders to hammer in the last of the steel cladding outside ultra modern-looking glass and steel structure on Wavell Street west of Clarke Road.

Lewis and his constituents in the Argyle and Pottersburg neighbourhoods thought the guys wearing tool belts would be long gone by now and the community centre would be open. It broke ground in 2017 and ribbon cutting on the project — which includes two indoor pools, a gym and activity spaces — was supposed to happen a year ago. 

"This has been a long, slow painful process for the community but there's an eagerness and anticipation," said Lewis. "The light is at the end of the tunnel." 

The tender for the job was awarded to Concord, Ont., based Jasper Contracting back in 2017. Their base bid of $21.4 million was the lowest of 11 other companies, including four local ones. 

In business for 40 years, Jasper has a track record of building similar structures for public-sector clients including the Vellore Village Library in Vaughan, the police headquarters in Guelph and a large police training centre for York Regional Police. 

This photo of the community centre's interior posted as part of a February construction update on the city's website. (Maclennan Jaunkalns Miller )

The company did not respond to CBC calls for comment on Thursday and Friday.

An update of the project posted on the city's website in February suggests much of the work is moving toward completion. The photos show walls partially drywalled, the pool deck tiled and hoops installed in the basketball court. 

But the photos also suggest there's still much to do. 

Light fixtures are missing, flooring is not yet installed in places and there's exposed installation on the exterior walls where pieces of metal cladding still aren't in place.

Liens against general contractor

CBC News has learned that Jasper Contracting has been hit with four liens by sub-contractors on the project alleging partial non-payment for materials and services. 

Those liens, filed in December and in January, include: 

  • HTS Engineering: $424,428 for the supply of heating and air conditioning units. 
  • Bukhshi Insulation, Inc.: $83,292 for materials including pipe and insulation wrap. 
  • Bayview Sheet Metal, Heating and Air Conditioning: $133,465.61 for supplied duct work and equipment. 
  • Ro-Buck Contracting Ltd.: $272,658 for concrete curbs and paving. 

Any allegations of non-payment have not been proven in court. In each case, Jasper was able to have the lien lifted through the use of a lien bond. That action essentially relieves the lien on the city owned property, and allows the work to continue while the contractor and sub-contractor work to resolve their dispute, sometimes in court. 

Jasper Construction's base bid of $21.4 million was the lowest of 11 bids on the project. ( )

Scott Stafford, the city's managing director of parks and recreation, said the project has been "challenging for sure." 

"We're all getting impatient and we can't wait for it to open up," he said. 

Stafford said the project has suffered from a "domino effect" of delays and setbacks. 

It started when a shipment of structural steel for the exterior walls had to be sent back in the project's early days, causing an eight-week pause that led to a cascading series of delays. There were two strikes, one by plumbers and another by sheet metal workers. 

"There have been ongoing delays along the way that are keeping us anxious for sure," said Stafford. "We were certainly hoping to have it open in 2019." 

Stafford wouldn't comment about the liens filed against Jasper Construction.

"We're going to have to leave that between the contractor and the sub-contractors," he said. "We're managing all the contractual agreements that we have in place for the project. We're doing what we can as far as those obligations go.

"Our facilities group manages these contracts and all of the jobs and there's things like bonds and different penalty clauses ... so those are all tools that are used and typical in these construction projects." 

The East Community Centre will include two indoor pools, one will include lanes for people to do laps, while the other will be for general leisure. (City of London)

Stafford plans to tour the site in a few weeks and will learn more then but says he still anticipates a spring opening. He said there are programs scheduled at the community centre for late June and a Canada Day celebration.

Would he recommend the city use Jasper again?

"We go through bids and we'll certainly assess the project, it's too early to give any kind of answer like that. The product looks great as I've seen it." 

Lewis said he's "not losing sleep" about any disputes between contractors. 

"For us the important thing is that the work is continuing and people are on the job every day," he said.


Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.