Ottawa LRT subcontractors, suppliers seek millions of dollars in unpaid payment claims

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Tomlinson shored up and excavated the lands at the western portal of the tunnel at Pimisi Station, shown here in this 2016 artist's rendering. (City of Ottawa)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

At least four subcontractors and suppliers for the problem-plagued Ottawa Light Rail Transit (LRT) project have raised issues about non-payment of major invoices – and three have filed lawsuits to obtain the money they claim to be owed.

The city’s LRT started operations in September, after more than a year’s delays, and since it has opened, the system has been plagued with many delays and service disruptions, severe enough that the city has withheld monthly operating payments to the Rideau Transit Group, in addition to a $59 million deduction on the final construction payment of $202 million. (The project has an overall cost of $2.1 billion.)

In court filings, three subcontractors allege that project delays and negligence by the RTG’s construction component, OLRT Constructors, have led to skyrocketing costs. OLRT is comprised of three companies, EllisDon, SNC-Lavalin and Dragados Canada.

C&M Electric Ltd. in a May statement of claim has demanded $5.5 million and Zeibarth Electric Contractors Ltd., filed a statement of claim seeking $12.7 million. In a separate claim, Quest Steel Inc. says it is still owed more than $4.9 million and Tomlinson sent a letter to RTG saying that more than $11 million is still outstanding.

C&M says its claim it wasn’t able to complete its work by the agreed-upon dates and construction schedules on both contracts were extended more than 50 weeks. C&M continued its work on the Confederation Line stations into 2019 when it was supposed to have been done by the end of 2017, The Ottawa Citizen reported.

“As a result of the extensive delays which were not caused or contributed by the plaintiff, C&M incurred additional labour, material and other costs in order to complete the supply and installation of the electrical work.”

The electrical contractor alleges that the Confederation Line project as a whole, including the plaintiff’s work sites, was plagued by delays, including sites not being ready for C&M’s work, OLRT’s failing to manage and co-ordinate the work of its agents and employees, and failing to make necessary decisions on design changes in a timely fashion.

C&M claims “necessary and important” site decisions were delivered late, as were approvals of shop drawings, responses to information requests, change orders, and site instructions. It also alleges that “excessive” change orders were issued and payments were late.

These delays and site problems saw C&M Electric suffer “significant and continual” work disruptions, loss of construction crew productivity, project schedule disruptions, and additional site supervision, project management and labour.

C&M says in its statement of claim that OLRT failed to “properly co-ordinate” the work of its subcontractors, failed to “designate and/or keep a competent superintendent and/or project manager on site during the project until completion of the work,” failed to “act in an organized manner,” failed to “properly schedule the project and manage the trades” and failing to “reasonably foresee, anticipate or take into account certain complications or obstacles that could reasonable arise throughout the duration of the project.”

C&M Electric says it completed its work “in a good, workmanlike and timely manner,” and despite “numerous requests for payment” a total of $5,476,738.06 remains “due and payable.”

The statement of claim filed on behalf of Ziebarth Electrical Contractors, which used the same legal firm as C&M, alleges the same project delays, breaches of contract and negligence outlined in C&M Electric’s legal action.

Ziebarth says it supplied and installed electrical work for Lyon, Blair, Cyrville, Hurdman, Tremblay, Tunney’s Pasture and Pimisi stations. The construction schedules on the various sites saw extensions of between 74 and 120 weeks. The company also worked on a maintenance and storage complex.

The legal filing says, for this work, $12,690,486.20 “remains due and payable,” the legal filing says.

OLRT has not filed a statement of defence. The original statement of claims also named the City of Ottawa and RTG as defendants, but the contractors discontinued the legal action against the city and RTG last month.

Meanwhile, In a separate statement of claim filed on July 29 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Quest Steel Inc. demands at least $4,921,594.86 from OLRT Constructors, RTG and the City of Ottawa. The total amount of Quest’s contract, according to its statement of claim, was $8,968,861.97, including tax. Quest says it has invoiced OLRT but it is still awaiting payment of more than $4.9 million.

As well Tomlinson Group has sent a letter to RTG saying that more than $11 million is outstanding. CBC reported last week that the company wrote to OLRT on Nov. 11, and published a copy of the correspondence in which Tomlinson president Kevin Cinq-Mars said more than $11 million is “past due and payable by OLRT to Tomlinson.”

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