Kelowna city officials say the $14 million Bernard Avenue revitalization project is not being delayed because of the Fortis B.C. labour dispute, it’s just losing the time it made up by being ahead of schedule.
According to Bill Berry, the head of the city’s construction services department, the original deadline to complete the work was June 2014—the date announced Tuesday as the new expected completion date. Thanks to fast work by the Vernon-based contractor on the second phase (Abbott Street to Pandosy Street section) of the project, time had been made up that would have not required road reconstruction continuing into next spring, said Berry.
The original plan called for a final layer of asphalt being laid on the rebuilt road next spring, he added.
On Tuesday, the city announced that due to the lock-out of Fortis B.C. electrical workers by the company, it has had to split the third and final phase of the Bernard Avenue project into two sections, with one part now underway and and the other to take place next spring.
Berry said the first part, from St. Paul Street to Ellis Street, can be done now because it does not require electrical lines under the road to be be worked on. But that’s not the case with the stretch from Ellis Street to Pandosy Street.
Berry said as late as last Friday, the city talked with Fortis officials and were told they could not do the electrical work because their workers are still locked out and there was no sign of them going back to work anytime soon.
“We waited until the very last possible moment,” said Berry, adding the city felt it necessary to inform the public, especially area merchants. of the situation as soon as possible.
He said for the last nine weeks during the lock out, the city had been “crossing its fingers” hoping for a resolution to the labour dispute at Fortis.
The company locked out the workers in July.
Berry said there are no negotiations ongoing between the city and the company and there is nothing the city can do to get the work done without a resolution of the labour dispute. The Bernard Avenue work does not quality as an essential service that must be maintained by the locked out Fortis workers. And Berry said it is unlikely any legal attempt by the city to get the work done would be successful.
He said even if the labour dispute ends soon and the Fortis workers return to work, the Ellis to Pandosy block cannot be completed this fall because while the contractor had planned to use two crews, both working at the same time, on the two blocks to complete the work November, now the second crew is no longer available.
Berry said the city remains hopeful that the Fortis labour dispute will not drag on into next spring because that would result in the city having to really delay completion of the road work.
“I feel sorry for the merchants down there, said Berry, saying the city had hoped to wrap up the Bernard revitalization work by November because of the time save during the spring work.
The Bernard Avenue work started last fall and has been done in three phases, with breaks last winter and this summer. The third phase, now known as phase 3a, started on Tuesday.