Roncesvalles Construction

What went wrong on Roncesvalles?

What started as an enthusiastic attempt to beautify Roncesvalles (and replace some very old sewer pipes) turned into a major inconvenience for residents and businesses long ago. And the project, which began in 2009 and was supposed to end by 2010, is still not complete. Delays have ushered in another round of construction this spring.

The expected completion date is now July 4th. This time the pressure to finish is strong — it's the third construction season and the Polish Festival is scheduled to begin in mid-September. To say that locals want to be able to celebrate without the presence of orange fencing and abandoned tools would be an understatement.

Sanscon Construction, behind much of the work on St. Clair, is blamed by some residents and members of City Council for mishandling the project. And many business owners are calling for compensation from the City for lost business. Area councillor Gord Perks hopes to make the necessary reforms to prevent delayed construction in the future.

I recently had a chance to ask Perks about why the project has dragged out so long and whether or not the new completion date is realistic. Here's what he told me:

What went wrong on Roncesvalles?

It's very simple what went wrong on Roncesvalles, the contractor chose not to put enough resources in the job to get it completed on its deadline. There were a certain number of days to complete the contract and he hasn't met them. That means he's now paying some penalties, and I don't think those penalties are adequate.

Sanscon was the same contractor that did the St. Clair construction, which also ran into problems. Why did they get hired again?

He did part of St. Clair West? Oh yeah, he did. Well, the problems on St. Clair West had nothing to do with him. The problems on St. Clair West came from a few factors. One of them was that they were making changes as they went. If you're marshaling the correct skill-set and equipment to go work on a street, and then all of a sudden "no, no, we have to bury these wires, so we have to stop everything," your costs and timing go out the window. So the work that this guy would have been doing wouldn't have been the cause of the problems on St. Clair West.

Because of the history of the way road work is done in the city of Toronto we're bound by a couple of problems. One is that it's a privatized service, so these are not municipal employees and we can't just tell them "you're falling behind, bring in five more guys, and get the work done." That's one problem with privatized services, you can't control their day to day decisions.

The second problem is because of a long history of people to the right of centre arguing that everything costs too much. We are required to take the lowest bid on a contract, so it doesn't matter what your history is on completing other work for the City of Toronto, so if you're a licensed, competent, legal bidder, we're sort of required by law to take you as the guy who wins the bid.

So unless he does something to disqualify himself from bidding on contracts, I'm not sure how legally you can prevent him. There is talk about bringing a report from city staff that gives council more control over how to disqualify people. I'm certainly keen to have that conversation. I've actually pulled together a group of people from the community who've been intimately involved in the construction and the design and that's one of things we're going to talk about, but I can't prejudge it. Another thing about the bidding process is that councillors are legally prohibited from participating in the selection of the winning bid, in order to prevent the kind of corruption that MFP left.

Will the construction be finished by the Polish festival?

It better be. I'll kill them if it isn't.

Lead photo by Rick McGinnis


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