The City of Toronto has given Aplus General Contractors Corp. a failing grade – and staff are recommending that the contractor be barred from bidding on municipal contracts for three years after asserting that the business failed to properly conduct and complete work on the $23,835,000 Ellesmere pumping station project.
A March 4 memo to City Council’s infrastructure and environment committee outlines a collection of alleged violations. Aplus disputes the assertions. The business has filed a lawsuit against the city. The committee voted unanimously to disqualify the company at its March 18 meeting despite receiving a passionate letter from Aplus president Peter Martins giving the company’s side of the story.
In the memo, Toronto Water’s general manager Lou Di Gironimo says things started going wrong after the contractor began work on the pumping station in June, 2016.
The city imposed a temporary six month suspension against the company, which started on Oct. 30, 2018. If the three year ban is approved, it will begin on April 30, says report from Di Gironimo and the city’s chief purchasing officer.
“Regarding ‘issues’ with City of Toronto, we have no comments as the matter is legal in nature and is in courts,” Aplus wrote in an email to The Toronto Star. “Factual information will be determined through the judicial process in due course.”
Aplus asserts in its statement of claim that the city is responsible for project delays and extra costs. The city has filed a defence and counterclaim.
The city says the contractor failed to properly supervise and adhere to health and safety requirements, and includes in its report photos that it says document the alleged violations.
The report also says Aplus president Martins made comments to a city employee “with the apparent attempt to intimidate and harass this person including references to knowing where the staff person lived.”
The city report also says the contractor has performed poorly on other projects for which it has been contracted.
The Ellesmere project deficiencies and delays have cost the city more than $850,000 in additional costs, the city says.
However, Aplus claims in its lawsuit that the city failed to issue a correct survey, failed to resolve scope changes in a timely fashion and failed to make payments in a timely fashion for completed work.
“As a result, the city has caused delays to the project (and) has put the project out of sequence, forcing Aplus to incur additional costs, even though Aplus has continuously notified the city that such delays would affect the project schedule,” the company says its statement of claim.
The city has responded, asserting Aplus failed to comply with the contract and meet deadlines. The city also says the company failed to carry out necessary detailed surveying, resulting in workers cutting into a reservoir at an incorrect location. The city also says that the company repeatedly failed to co-ordinate with the city, provide proper documentation, and maintain safe working conditions (including a situation where city needed to stop a portion of the work because of unsafe conditions.)
Furthermore, the city claims that the company abandoned the unfinished project on March 16, 2018, leaving potentially dangerous conditions on the site. The city returned a reservoir at the station to operation using its own resources and another contractor, and is currently working to complete the project without Aplus, city officials say.
(Aplus says it left the job site after the several months after city suspended payments as the dispute escalated.)
On March 18, the Toronto city council’s infrastructure and environment committee voted unanimously without debate to endorse the staff recommendation to disqualify the contractor from working on city projects.
This decision came despite a passionate letter from Martins outlining the company’s side of the story, with the observation that the contractor had worked successfully on many City of Toronto projects over the years, and the disqualification would be unjust.