TLR investigative lawyer dabbles in ‘on time and on budget’

Part of the commission’s investigation focused on the project’s budget and whether it was sufficient for the work.

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City Hall’s most well-worn phrase of the past 12 years, ‘on time and on budget,’ came under scrutiny on Wednesday, with a former top executive from the city ​​answering questions from the LRT survey on the preliminary estimate for the $2.1 billion Stage 1 project.

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Nancy Schepers, who was the deputy city manager overseeing the TLR file until late 2014, was the one testifying, but it was primarily the commission’s co-lead attorney, John Adair, who testified. spoke during their exchange on day 3 of the public inquiry.

Adair noted the city’s 2009 project estimate of $2.1 billion and suggested that 2010 mayoral candidates, such as eventual mayor Jim Watson, were campaigning to maintain that cost.

Adair said Schepers wasn’t ready to call a $2.1 billion budget at the time, but potential board members in 2010 acted like that was a number that could be set in stone. .

“In the absence of real estimates, I agree,” Schepers said.

The $2.1 billion estimate in 2009 was a « class D » estimate, meaning it could have been shifted by 25%, or about $500 million, in either direction. At the time, engineering work was still needed to firm up costs and make a project budget of $2.1 billion.

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With the help of significant design changes to the downtown tunnel, the estimate eventually held up for contract award, with the Rideau Transit Group becoming the winning bidder following approval of the deal by the board in December 2012.

The city would eventually exhaust an additional $100 million contingency for the project, pushing the cost past $2.2 billion.

Part of the commission’s investigation focused on the project’s budget and whether it was sufficient for the work.

Adair challenged Schepers to comment on the oft-repeated « on time, on budget » promise and he suggested the city should have instead emphasized to the public how complex the city’s biggest project was, rather than deadlines.

Schepers disputed his suggestion, saying the public deserved to know a schedule, especially since buses were diverted from the Transitway and rumbled past homes while the LRT was built.

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Schepers, who is a professional engineer and has overseen city infrastructure as deputy city manager, was very familiar with the phrase « on time and on budget, » certainly for the LRT, she said. , « and for every project for which I have been responsible ».

After her role as Deputy City Manager, Schepers served as Executive Advisor to the City Manager in 2015 before retiring from City Hall.

Schepers then worked for Boxfish Infrastructure Group, a city-contracted LRT company run by Brian Guest, for a very short period. She said she earned $1,700 for the job, which she wasn’t asked about in her Wednesday testimony.

In an April interview with another commission lawyer, she said Boxfish’s work was unrelated to the Ottawa LRT.

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On Wednesday, city attorney Peter Wardle asked Schepers about Guest’s work on the city’s LRT project and she credited Guest with design changes that improved cost and schedule while helping the city understand its role in a public-private partnership.

Wardle asked Schepers if she thought Guest was brought to the city’s LRT job for political reasons. She said no. Guest had worked for former mayor Bob Chiarelli, who became an Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, and former premier Paul Martin. Watson is also a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister.

Earlier today, Infrastructure Ontario Senior Vice-President John Traianopoulos testified about a contractual decision not to have a « run-in » period for the maintenance and penalty relief period of payment.

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Infrastructure Ontario, a provincial agency, was the city’s lead procurement advisor for Stage 1.

In some cases, an integration element in a contract could alleviate some of the payment deductions related to maintenance issues when a system starts operating, the commission heard.

Traianopoulos said there were talks about possibly having a run-in period, but the city believed the LRT system should be fully operational on day one.

He agreed with Wardle that the group of experienced companies that make up RTG began work with “eyes wide open” to the demands of the LRT contract.

The public can watch all of the SLR Inquiry hearings on video screens in the University of Ottawa’s Fauteux Hall, online at or on Rogers TV, channels 470 in English and 471 in French.

On Thursday, the committee will hear from Yves Declercq of train builder Alstom and Manuel Rivaya from RTG’s construction arm, OLRT Constructors.

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