By: Mike Anderson
It’s hard to see how Pefferlaw’s new fire hall can be completed before the snow flies this winter.
The $4.5 million construction project was initially slated for completion by July 2019, but after repeated delays that date was pushed to this fall.
However, the building’s apparatus bays still don’t have a finished roof, windows or doors for that matter — leaving most of the structure exposed to the elements.
Now, the town is considering legal action against BECC Construction Group Ltd, the project’s general contractor, which threatens another significant delay.
While town council has held several closed sessions to review the project, details of those discussions have not been made public, allowing the rumour mill to run amok.
At the October 23rd council session, Karen Wolfe, a resident of Pefferlaw and former publisher of The Post, called for greater clarity from the town.
At first, Mayor Margaret Quirk seemed reluctant to allow Ms. Wolfe to speak — citing procedural rules, as a report on the Pefferlaw Fire Hall was not before the council.
However, as the council had just received minutes from a previous session that mentioned the fire hall, Ms. Wolfe was able to convince Mayor Quirk to allow her to address the council.
Ms. Wolfe said that many residents were frustrated with the lack of activity at the job site and that the town owed them and the taxpayers of Georgina an explanation.
“I don’t understand why council refuses to be transparent about the lack of progress regarding this project,” she said.
“Not every report by the town solicitor is required to be conducted in closed session, and I submit that the discussion on this project should be handled in open session. If we are in a position to sue for non-performance or any other reasons with respect to this project, just tell us. We deserve to know the truth about what is going on.”
Mayor Quirk directed Dave Reddon, the town’s chief administrative officer, to respond to Ms. Wolfe’s questions.
In an email response to Ms. Wolfe, and later to The Post, Mr. Reddon issued the following statement:
“Town Council and staff are actively involved in the issues surrounding the delay in the construction of the Pefferlaw Fire Station, and are presently in the process of reviewing all available options, including possible legal action so as to bring about the completion of the project as quickly as possible with as few cost overruns as possible.”
Mr. Reddon’s statement was also posted on the town’s website on October 29th, as a project update.
While the town tries to figure out its next steps, frustration with the project is bubbling over in Pefferlaw, as residents are anxious for answers.
Ward 5 Councillor Dave Harding says he can’t go anywhere in Pefferlaw without someone asking him about the status of the fire hall.
Although Mr. Harding acknowledges there have been unforeseen delays —including bad weather and foundation problems caused by a higher than expected water table — he’s also frustrated with the slow pace of construction.
“If I were in charge of that project, things would not be going at the slow pace that they are operating even now,” he says.
But Mr. Harding won’t discuss the town’s plans to get BECC Construction to expedite the project, nor will he talk about any possible legal action.
Brampton-based BECC Construction, which has built numerous large-scale projects including a new fire hall in Vaughan, was awarded the contract in May 2018, after successfully outbidding five other companies with a bid of $3,646,000.
While the company’s owner Zulq Malik acknowledges that lawyers are now involved, he’s confident that BECC Construction will complete the job.
Mr. Malik says that 98 percent of construction projects in Ontario experience delays, and the fire hall is no different.
“It’s not common nowadays to finish a contract on schedule,” he says.
However, Mr. Malik won’t provide a revised completion date.
“We don’t have a completion date,” he says. “There are a number of outstanding issues that need to be resolved on a design level. The project has been delayed for a number of factors, primarily changes to the scope of work. The biggest challenge we have is it’s hard to schedule a job when there are changes that remain outstanding.”
When pressed on the exact nature of the issues, Mr. Malik says:
“I’ll be very honest. With everyone holding their ground, it would be prudent if we refrained from pointing fingers at this point because everyone’s got their lawyers in the middle of this thing right now.”
Despite the possible legal wrangling, Mr. Malik says he speaks with Mr. Reddon on a routine basis.
“We’re very professional with each other,” he says. “We’re all kind of behind the eight ball. They have the same pressures we have. Local residents are on them. There are complications. But we’re working through the complications. The project is continuing. The site has not been abandoned.”
Although a construction bond protects the Town from financial loss if BECC Construction fails to complete the project — which is a legal requirement under the Municipal Act — any court proceeding would mean a significant delay. In part, because the town would have to source another contractor to complete the work.
Meanwhile, Pefferlaw’s current continent of 16 volunteer fire-fighters is housed in a temporary location, the former home of Have Bus Will Travel, located at 536 Pefferlaw Rd.
The original rental agreement was from May 1st, 2018 to May 31st, 2019; however, it can be extended on a monthly basis until the new fire hall is ready, according to Fire Chief Ron Jenkins.
Thankfully, this temporary arrangement hasn’t impeded their ability to respond to calls. Last year, Pefferlaw’s volunteer fire-fighters responded to 159 calls, and this year, as of October 29th, the total is 111 calls.