Should Burnaby penalize contractors who don’t finish projects in time?
Rosemary Brown Arena was originally expected to be done last year, according to one councillor. Now, contractors say not until June 2023.
A major civic project that was supposed to be completed by now has hit another delay, spurring questions from councillors on whether contractors should be penalized for delays.
Last week, the financial planning committee was informed of another three-month delay on South Burnaby’s coming Rosemary Brown Arena, which is now not expected to open until June of next year.
In a report, staff commented that the roof on the building is now watertight.
Asked about that comment, general manager of lands and facilities James Lota told the committee that there was a race to get to that point before the rainy season started.
That, he said, was so contractors can do construction work on the inside of the building throughout the winter season.
“As soon as it starts raining, we want to be able to do all that work inside the building that you need to do to get it complete,” Lota said. “You don’t want to be up there having waterproofing work happening while it’s raining.”
He added that, over the summer, the contractors had “a lot” of workers on the roof of the building to get that waterproofing done in time, adding that roofing contractors are in high demand over the summer.
Coun. Pietro Calendino further asked about the three-month delay to completing the building, which Lota said part of it was a delay in procuring mass timber.
Calendino noted that the arena was previously expected to have opened this month and asked whether there were any penalties in the contract for delays, or whether the delays were justified.
“I’m not 100% sure it’s entirely justified, but there is no penalty clause. Because contractually, if you build a penalty clause, you have to have a bonus as well,” Lota said.
Calendino suggested that, moving forward, the city should look at adding performance measures to future contracts to incentivize expedient work on civic projects.
Coun. James Wang said, when driving by the construction site, it looked like the facility was still midway through construction and asked whether there could be any further delays.
“I would say the major risk factor, like getting those major materials, that’s all done. And all the mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, is already onsite in the parking lot,” Lota said.
He added that waterproofing the roof was a major “risk factor” for delays in the project that has now been completed.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, chair of the committee, agreed with Calendino that the city needed to look at financial incentives to complete projects on time, or even early.
He suggested the city could look at including expected timelines for completion, with potential bonuses for beating the timeline and penalties for failing to meet expectations.
“It’s a ripple effect. It’s going to cause us to delay the aquatic centre and the ice centre at the [Bill Copeland Sports Centre] site because we are waiting for those things to happen,” Dhaliwal said.
“We have told staff to not tear Burnaby Lake [arena] down until [Rosemary Brown Arena is] ready.”
He added that the Rosemary Brown Arena was originally expected to have been completed in fall 2021 before being stretched to 2022 and then spring of 2023, and now closing on summer 2023.
“The concerns are valid. We are leaving it to the developers and the providers, and it’s just too much to really carry on,” Dhaliwal said.
He added that he wasn’t sure what kinds of conversations were happening with the builders, but he expected that staff were not going easy on them.
“But I can tell you this much: that I’m not pleased with the way things have moved along,” Dhaliwal said.
“And this [report] seems to be saying we should be celebrating a milestone—roof is now watertight. Well that’s great, but that probably should have happened a year-and-a-half ago.”