An open letter to the community about construction

This is a thank you letter.

First I’d like to thank residents, businesses and visitors for their continued patience as we work to complete an unprecedented amount of work on our aging buildings, roads, sewers and water systems. Thank you for putting up with the noise, mess and inconvenience that goes along with construction.

Next, I’d like to thank each and every member of the crews working on construction sites all over the city.  It’s hard work, and it’s tough to make friends when you’re tearing up roads, but rest assured that we value the work you do, and we understand how it will benefit our community for years to come.

Finally, I’d like to thank the men and women who make up the City’s Engineering team and other City employees for working together under extraordinary circumstances to co-ordinate multiple contractors, sub-contractors, and utility providers for more than 20 road reconstruction projects in the past two years. Because of your dedication, Guelph is able to take advantage of $44 million in Federal and Provincial funding, and completed almost five years’ of work last year.

Not surprisingly, City Hall is criticized for disruptions during construction projects, particularly when a project doesn’t go according to plan. We accept that. The nature of this kind of work—especially where multiple contractors and 80-year-old infrastructure goes—is unpredictable. We know this work impacts people’s lives—some to a small degree and others more significantly. While we do our best to mitigate these impacts, we cannot make them disappear.

What is surprising is that, despite doing almost five times more work than usual, the City received about the same number of complaints. On the other hand, we’ve received phone calls and letters thanking construction workers and City staff for their hard work, telling us for instance how great Norfolk Street looks with new trees and lighting, and letting us know they’re looking forward to skating on the new rink at Market Square.

Throughout recent construction, overall the people who live, work and visit Guelph have shown they understand the importance of the work being done, and support the people making it happen.

But that doesn’t mean that it has been easy.

Stories in the news recently have featured the behaviour of a few shop owners in the Market Square district.  

Many have been inconvenienced by the infrastructure work in the downtown area over the last couple of years—not surprisingly this is where we find our oldest infrastructure—and the Carden Street area has felt the brunt of this work.

Since construction on Carden Street started, City representatives have regularly visited Carden and Wilson Street stores to respond to questions or comments, discuss site issues, make special arrangements for deliveries, parking and waste pick-up. City Council has unanimously supported the development of a program, in collaboration with the property and business owners in the Market Square district, to promote retail activity in the area with the opening of Market Square. Unfortunately, despite the City’s ongoing efforts to be forthcoming and accommodating, a few individuals continue to publicly condemn the project, the City and its employees.

Our focus must be on finishing the project as quickly as possible. The construction company on the site understands the urgency. Council understands the urgency. Together, Guelph residents and businesses donated more than $1 million to build Guelph’s Market Square and there is growing excitement and enthusiasm in the rest of the community.

The City will continue communicating with shop owners about upcoming construction activities, and we’ll work with businesses to minimize disruptions as much as possible as we complete the rest of the work on Carden Street and Market Square. We will work with those property and businesses owners who are willing to make Market Square a success for the residents and businesses.

Unfortunately, we have to continue to tough it out as construction continues for a few more months. I know we’ll all be thankful when it’s over. In the meantime, on behalf of Council, I thank you again for your continued patience.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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5 Comments on “An open letter to the community about construction”

  1. Laura Murr Says:

    In your blog post you state “Our focus must be on finishing the project as quickly as possible. The construction company on the site understands the urgency. Council understands the urgency. Together, Guelph residents and businesses donated more than $1 million to build Guelph’s Market Square and there is growing excitement and enthusiasm in the rest of the community”

    Correct me if I am wrong but hasn’t this area been under construction for almost 5 years? If I am correct – I would say that finishing up the construction is more than urgent it is really a matter of life and livelhood for the merchants on Carden Street.!!!

    As a resident on a fixed income I am very concerned about the costs involved in this project. Could you please tell me exactly how much in total the Civic square is going to cost?

    Please give a breakdown of the figures into how much for:
    1. the street reconstruction
    2. the civic square
    3. city hall

    Also I would like a further brwakdown of who paid for the construction
    ie.:
    how much came from development charges?
    how much from the capital budget/property taxes?
    how much from provincial/federal money?
    how much from Guelph Hydro profit money?

    Thank you Laura

  2. kfarbridge Says:

    The cost of the new City Hall is available on the City’s website:
    http://www.guelph.ca/cityhall.cfm?subCatID=2132&smocid=2705

    The cost of Market Square including the road reconstruction is also available on the City’s website:
    http://guelph.ca/remastered/?page_id=116 under “About the Project”

    I will check with staff to ensure that there isn’t anything else related to your questions. If there is, I will post it.

  3. kfarbridge Says:

    In addition to the last information I provided, the report to Council regarding the awarding of the tender for the New Guelph Market Square, Contract No. 2-1087 is also found on the City’s website in the August 30, 2010 Council agenda. Drawing from that report:

    The total amount of the construction tender for Market Square, the rink and water feature and the complete reconstruction of Carden Street is $7,940,088.05.
    The rink and water feature in Market Square is using $1,000,000 in RInC Ontario stimulus funding and another $1,100,000 was raised by the Rink Rats.
    The reconstruction of Carden Street (water, sewer, utilities, sidewalks, roadway and landscaping) is not using Federal or Provincial economic stimulus funds.
    This is not a growth-related project so development charges are not eligible. Funding for the project is a combination of current revenues, city reserves and debt financing.
    The report provides the Budget and Financing Schedule in detail. The funding was part of the approved 2010 Capital Budget.

  4. Laura Murr Says:

    Hi thank you for your reply.

    While checking the bids and tenders I found 2 more tenders and bids for the civic square pavilion and one for the foundation of the pavilion these add up (if the lowest bids were awarded) l to $1,816,047.These appear to be separate tenders for parts of the the civic square not included in the Goetz bid whose tender was for $7,940,088.05

    These appear to be separate tenders for parts of the civic aquare??

    Is this is so the total cost of the project is really $9,756,135. Am I correct?

    Also you did not answer my questions re the breakdown of how the project was funded.

    Was any development charges or hydro dividend money used?
    How much came from our property taxes via the capital budget.

    Thank You. Laura Murr

  5. kfarbridge Says:

    The Square has been sequentially tendered based on the time needed to produce contract documents for the different components. The decision to move forward with the pavilion was made later, once staff had detailed cost estimates for the whole that indicated that it would be within budget. While the pavilion tendering is separate, it forms part of the general contract as a Cash Allowance item. Goetz, as the general contractor, is responsible for the delivery of the entire project. The pavilion was done as a basement and above grade components to maintain schedule and site coordination. Consequently, your conclusion regarding the total cost of the project is not correct. As noted in my previous response, this is not an eligible project under the Development Charges Act so funding sources did not include development charges. The reserve established when the City called the loan to Guelph Hydro was also not used for this project. I neglected to provide the link to the Council Agenda that provides the complete Budget and Financing Schedule in detail. It can be found at: http://guelph.ca/uploads/Council_and_Committees/Council/2006/council_agenda_083010.pdf.

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