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N.W.T. bridge lawsuit without merit: engineer

A Yellowknife engineer being sued by a Quebec-based company over contracts to build a bridge near Fort Providence, N.W.T., says he doesn't think the company's complaint has merit.

A Yellowknifeengineer being sued by a Quebec-based company over contracts to build a bridge near Fort Providence, N.W.T., says he doesn't think the company's complaint has merit.

Andrew Gamble, who is named in a lawsuit along with the Deh Cho Bridge Corp. of Fort Providence, said the bridge corporation did not agree to buy $39 million in steel from Canam Group Inc. of Saint-Georges, Que.

"There wasn't an agreement at all. It was simply us asking them for a price. They gave us a price. At the end of the day, we chose not to accept it," Gamble said.

"So there was never an agreement for them to fabricate the steel."

The1,045-metre-long, $150-million bridge over theMackenzie Riveris to provide a year-round road link between Yellowknife and the southern provinces.

Canam, operating under its Structal-Bridges unit, filed a breach of contract lawsuit in June against the Deh Cho Bridge Corp., Gamble and another engineer, claiming that the corporation refused to honour what it believed was a binding contract.

In the lawsuit, Canam alleges it shared its expertise with the bridge corporation to reduce escalating costs for the bridge project, the price of which had more than tripled in five years due to rising labour and steel costs.

Canam wants the Northwest Territories Supreme Court to prevent the bridge corporation from buying steel from any other manufacturer for the bridge until its lawsuit is heard.

But on Friday, Deh Cho Bridge Corp. officials and N.W.T. politicians held a sod-turning ceremony in Fort Providence to kick off construction of the bridge.

Also on Friday, the bridge corporation signed a $132-million contract with Atcon Construction Inc. of Miramichi, N.B., including a $9-million preliminary agreement for earth-moving work that it plans to subcontract to a construction company in Hay River, N.W.T.

Atcon CEO Robert Tozer said the bridge contract will bring work for 20 to 30 people from Fort Providence for the next three years.

"We're prepared to actually put in training schools and stuff like this here for heavy equipment, crane operators, reinforcing steel tires," Tozer said.

"That's one of the first things we want to get going on, to see what the local capabilities are and who's interested in training."

Gamble said that the Deh Cho Bridge Corp. decided to hire a general contractor rather than a series of individual contractors — including Canam's Structal-Bridges unit — because it would cost less.

The lawsuit against the bridge corporation by Canam Group has yet to be heard in court.

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