Manitoba

Winnipeg construction companies to pay for not meeting road work deadline

Two Winnipeg construction companies will have to pay penalties for not finishing three road construction projects on time last year.

Contractor, councillor 'disappointed' projects missed deadlines

A "bumpy road" sign is posted on Henderson Highway street corner near McLeod Avenue and Springfield Road. (CBC)

Two Winnipeg construction companies will have to pay penalties for not finishing three road construction projects on time last year.

“Obviously I was massively disappointed when [Henderson Highway] didn’t get done,” North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty told CBC News. “That’s, in my mind, not acceptable.”

Browaty raised the issue last November in a letter to constituents when the Henderson reconstruction wasn’t finished before winter.

“Angry wouldn’t start to describe my feelings on how this project has rolled out,” he wrote. “ I am considering all sorts of options on ways to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

On the up side, a particularly busy road renewal program in 2014 saw most of the 150 locations finished on time.

Contractors penalized

Seven of them were not, and of those, the city deemed three of them to be the fault of the contractor. As a result, financial penalties will be assessed against the contractors.

Two of the three unfinished contracts were with Borland Construction, including the $2.2 million project on Henderson Highway and Polo Park area improvements totalling $19.5 million.

The third contract was for a local street package including Dunrobin and Harbison avenues and others — a job won by J.C. Paving with a bid of $3.4 million.

The contracts for the projects specify the number of days a company has to do the work, as well as incentives for finishing early and penalties for finishing late.

The city hasn’t calculated the total value of the penalties — referred to as “liquidated damages” in the industry — because the amount depends on when the work ultimately is completed.

The contracts specify penalty amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per day while the work remains unfinished.

Borland Construction president Henry Borger said he shares Coun. Browaty’s disappointment with the work not being done on time.

“If we had the weather that was kind of expected for that week in November, Henderson wouldn’t have been a problem,” he said. “We figure we missed that one by about two days.”

“We did an awful lot of work last year,” Borger said, adding his company won contracts for big projects elsewhere for the city and province, such as Highway 12 and Highway 75.  

“We did more road work for our firm than ever before and I think a lot of the industry did more road work than ever before. And you’re squeezing it in in a short time frame that our climate allows. And you miss it by a couple days at the end — it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.”

J.C. Paving did not respond to requests for comment.

More can be done

Both Borger and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association say there’s something that could be done to help companies finish road work on time.

They’re urging the city to do the tendering sooner so the construction can start earlier in the season.

The city said construction on the Polo Park project started early last summer and the other two projects didn’t start until August.  

During this year’s civic budget debate, MHCA president Chris Lorenc presented a plan to councillors calling on the city to tender and award 80 per cent of the road construction between November and March so construction could start by May.

“It’s not in our industry interest at any time to delay work,” Lorenc said.

“We want to finish the work as quickly as we can and get out of everybody’s hair as quickly as we can so that we can move on to the next project,” he said.

The MHCA also calls for the city to streamline how it awards design work to engineering firms so that construction can start sooner.

“The point we made to councillors in the brief is that if you remain with status quo, what you are assuring is construction delays, higher project costs, frustration of civic policy and capital program objectives, and most importantly, for certain, you are assuring yourself of an angry public.”

A spokesperson for the city said city staff are working with the private sector to find ways to improve the processes.

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