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'It's a catastrophe': Residents frustrated with pumping station delays, 'just awful' impact

City 'is experiencing challenges with contractor,' says Orillia official, but contractor says 'hands are tied' until city outlines 'the way that they want to go forward'

Residents of the Elgin Bay Club condo have grown increasingly frustrated with construction delays for a sewage pumping station being constructed next to their building.

A part of the city’s planned improvements to the Centennial Drive Area, the $10.6 million project on Cedar Island Road has been subject to stops and starts at various points since construction began last spring.

At the times where construction was moving forward, residents said significant dust levels and diesel generators prevented them from using their balconies, and that construction negatively impacted their day-to-day lives.

“We had constant dust and odour during the whole summer,” Cliff Whitfield, president of the condo association, told OrilliaMatters. "We were very rarely able to use our balconies, and we haven’t been able to clean our windows.”

“Last summer was just awful,” said resident and retired environmental consultant, Tom Griffiths. “(There were) pile drivers right off the corner of the building, and the building shook. I don't know … whether there's been any structural damage, but it was just an absolutely brutal summer for everybody here.”

However, construction has ground to a halt over the past several months, leaving residents wondering when it might finally be finished.

“I've seen nothing since January,” Whitfield said. “I've seen the odd person coming and checking for this or that, but no one actually working.”

Whitfield said that John Bravakis Enterprises (JBE), the contractor building the project, had been providing residents with a weekly progress report, but noted those reports ceased when construction stopped moving forward.

Debi Garbutt, an employee with JBE, said “construction has stopped primarily because of the winter,” but added the company is currently working on negotiating a path forward with the city.

“We are advising everybody that we are currently awaiting the City of Orillia’s determination and approval of the best path forward for the pump station,” she said. “Until we hear from the city, outlining the way that they want to go forward, our hands are tied.”

“That doesn’t mean that we aren't going to build the pump station,” she said. “It means that there are matters that have to be resolved, and when it's resolved with the City of Orillia, then we’ll go from there.”

Garbutt said that the last weekly update was sent out during the week of Feb. 4.

“We suggested to anyone who was looking for information that they contact the City of Orillia,” she said.

Melissa Gowanlock, the city’s manager of communications, similarly stated that the contractor and the city are currently experiencing challenges.

“The City is experiencing challenges with the contractor regarding contract implementation and interpretation for the Centennial Drive Phase 1 Reconstruction project,” she told OrilliaMatters in a statement. “This is not uncommon, especially in large construction projects of this magnitude. The City continues to work toward a resolution to have the work completed in a timely manner. We appreciate the community’s patience, especially those in the immediate vicinity of the project.”

Everitt Rayburn, resident and retired project manager, expressed frustration at the delays the project has experienced and the lack of communication throughout the process. 

“The last job I had as a project manager was indirectly for the city with the curling club,” he said. “We had meetings every week to ensure that we had a project that was on schedule, and that the work was being done in accordance with the contract documents. My thoughts when I look at this (is it’s a) catastrophe.”

Rayburn and Griffiths both condemned the city’s choice for the pumping station’s site, as well, as a creek runs nearby the condo and into Lake Couchiching.

“We fought vigorously – myself and other people,” Griffiths said. “It’s a dumb place to try to build it because it's reclaimed land on a floodplain and very close to a waterway going right into Lake Couchiching.”

Ian Sugden, the city’s manager of development services and engineering, was out of office this week and unable to provide comments for the story.

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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