Residents are continuing to experience frustration at the lack of progress on the city’s Centennial Drive Reconstruction Project, which includes a sewage pumping station near the Elgin Bay condo building on Cedar Island Road.
Since construction began last spring, work on the pumping station has been subject to stops and starts, and progress has virtually ceased for most of this year due to ongoing negotiations between the city and project contractor, John Bravakis Enterprises.
Cedar Island Road resident Tom O’Connell expressed frustration with the site’s consistently running diesel generators, and a temporary all-way stop he views as unsafe.
“They have two diesel generators pumping pollution into the air 24/7,” he told OrilliaMatters. “The only people that we see there are the ones filling up the tanks for the generators. They have a temporary stop … that's a death trap … I see people blowing through it all the time.”
O’Connell noted the road near the all-way stop is “starting to break up quite extensively” as well.
However, the thing he is most frustrated about is the lack of progress with the work.
“That whole area has been torn up for more than a year,” he lamented. “We're in the middle of construction season … and I see nothing happening at this pumping station, and it's sitting there all summer long. It will be great when it's done, but the process right now is a nightmare.”
O’Connell also expressed frustration with the lack of communication about the project and its speed bumps.
“I think the worst part about it is there's no communication,” he said. "There's actually no information (about) what actually is happening. What is the impasse? Who's holding it up? When is it going to be resolved, right?”
The pumping station is part of the city’s broader Centennial Drive improvement work.
Orillia Legion president Rick Purcell said that, as part of the work, the esplanade on the rear side of the Legion has been closed, limiting available parking.
With two nearby municipal lots closed to allow for unrelated development work on Front Street by Fram+Slokker, he said there is often not enough parking for Legion members or visitors to the bingo hall.
“Some of our people are older and have mobility problems, and they're going home if they can't park,” he said. “The esplanade just beside us is an excellent place to park if it was open, but it's been closed for over a year, and then with the construction not happening, we're kind of screwed.”
Purcell and O’Connell are the most recent of many residents to express frustration about the lack of progress on the pumping station.
City staff said they are currently in legal negotiations with the contractor about the job.
“The City is experiencing challenges with contract implementation and interpretation for the Centennial Drive Phase 1 reconstruction project. We can confirm that there has been little activity on site,” said Ian Sugden, the city's general manager of development services and engineering.
“The City continues to work toward a resolution to have the work completed and is in legal negotiations with the contractor. As a result, at its meeting on June 20, 2022, Council authorized staff to negotiate a contract amendment with the contractor, John Bravakis Enterprises Inc. (JBE), to complete the remaining portions of the contract for Centennial Drive reconstruction project Phase 1.”
Mayor Steve Clarke said the project will be addressed at a special meeting of council on Aug. 12.
“There are negotiations going on between staff and the contractor, and staff … will be reporting back on that, and that is going to occur on Aug. 12,” he said. “Certainly the hope is on Aug. 12 there is some meaningful information that moves everything forward.”
Clarke noted that a new municipal parking lot opened in the area on July 29 as an interim measure to compensate for the two lots closed earlier this month, and he sympathized with residents’ concerns and frustrations.
“I completely understand the level of frustration by some, and I think they've been more than patient,” he said. “I commend them because I'm not sure if I could have been this patient.”
He said he wished the city could provide more information to residents.
“The majority of things we (can) speak about openly, and I (don’t) have a problem doing that,” he said. “I just wish we could do that on everything, but that's not the reality, so I find a lot of frustration myself when I can't speak openly about all aspects of every issue, including this one” due to the legal process.