Late finish to Saskatoon bridge costly, business owners say
Circle Drive extension late by about 11 months
Business owners affected by traffic disruptions due to work on Saskatoon's new bridge say they may file claims with the city, seeking compensation that could top $1 million.
The Circle Drive South crossing, a $300-million project that is set to open Wednesday, took 11 months longer to complete than originally promised.
A return to normal business traffic is something Spencer Early, and others, have been longing for.
Early's Farm and Garden Centre is on Lorne Avenue, a road which was closed due to bridge construction.
Early said the cost to his business amounts to about $1 million.
"I honestly believe that if a road closure or something made us bankrupt that the city would [not] care less," Early told CBC News. "They couldn't care less. I honestly believe that."
Project oversight criticized
Early also believes the city could have managed the project more effectively. He notes that some delay was blamed on weather, but there were many fine days when no worker were on site.
"They say there was delays because of rain or cold weather and that. And there is some of that. But there were also some beautiful days that there was nobody working," Early said. "And weekends and overtime didn't exist. You know, it could have been better."
Early is not alone in his criticism of the city. The delay also took a toll on other Lorne Avenue businesses.
Tim Robertson says his lounge, Sports On Tap, was often very quiet.
"There were a lot of days that weren't so busy," he said. "There's not a lot of traffic going past when Lorne Avenue is closed."
Another business affected by traffic disruptions was the Dakota Dunes Casino and golf course.
Chief Darcy Bear, of the Whitecap First Nation, said customers were faced with a confusing maze to reach the resort.
"People actually just got so frustrated they canceled their tee time," Bear said. "That impacts business."
Penalties under negotiation
According to the City of Saskatoon, contractors agreed to pay penalties of $10,000 per day if the project opening was delayed.
The exact amount of penalties, however, is being negotiated.
What could the late penalty be?
According to the city, a late finish to the project would attract penalties of $10,000 per day.
There are 218 days between Sept. 30, 2012 and Wednesday's opening of July 31. At $10,000 per day, that works out to $2.18 million. In percentage terms, that is .72 per cent of the total $300 million budget for the project.
Early suspects the city is partly to blame for the delay.
"I know some engineering people and they say there were delays from the city," he said. "There's lots of blame to go around."
Early said he is aware that he can seek compensation, from the city, for some of his losses. He says he would prefer not to have to go to court over the issue.
City officials said anyone who believes they have a valid claim should send in the details and they'll have a look at it.
They said they have yet to receive any such notices.
With files from CBC's Jennifer Quesnel