Ungar Construction on City's Decision to Remove Them: "It's all Politics"
“We have been embarrassed by this. We have been portrayed in the media as if we are not a reputable company and it is my goal to prove that is not true,” says Scott Ungar with G. Ungar Construction, out of Theodore, Saskatchewan.
The firm was previously in charge of Phase Two of the Cast Iron Water Main Replacement Project but had their contract terminated by the City of Moose Jaw, who took control of the project on May 11th. At the time of taking control of the project the City said it was due to a lack of progress and improper compaction which would mean re-doing portions of the work in two years time. Other issues such as safety concerns were said to be documented.
At the current time, High Street West has been named the Worst Road in the Province in an annual on-line poll by the Canadian Automobile Association. Despite this, Mayor Frasier Tolmie stated, in a May 11th media scrum, that it had no bearing in the decision to take control of the project.
Mayor Tolmie has also stated that he had been working with new City Manager, Jim Puffalt, prior to his official May 8th start date to help resolve the situation.
“We want people to know we had substantially completed the project in Moose Jaw. The sewer pipes are in, the water pipes are in. We just had the sidewalks and paving to complete,” Ungar stated.
Over 95 per cent of the job was completed at the time the City took control, he stated.
Asked why the City had terminated their control, Ungar stated it was all politics.
“It was the City moving to protect their appointed officials. It was all about saving their necks by making Ungar Construction the sacrificial lamb and saving their jobs there,” Ungar alleged.
He declined to name the appointed officials.
He further went on to allege that it was all about getting work done cheaper by the same subcontractors Ungar already had contracted to finish the work.
“I believe the intent was to get the remainder of the work done at a cheaper price. Their intent (City of Moose Jaw) is not to pay us,” he further alleged.
The total contracted bid for Phase Two was $4.2 million. He would not comment if the City had made any interim payments to G. Ungar Construction.
Ungar spoke about the construction company’s reputation and how they had been in the business for 35 years. The firm has 150 machines and 100 people working for them.
“We are not some defunct second rate company…they made us a sacrificial lamb to protect their futures.”
No other media organization has ever contacted the firm for comment, meaning they have been painted in a highly negative light, with no opportunity to respond back, he said.
Ungar alleged that construction days were lost due to such things as not having City workers available to operate valves over the weekend and half of Monday.
“There is between 30 – 35 lost days due to issues beyond our control.”
Regarding “well documented” safety concerns brought up during the May 14th Executive Committee meeting Ungar said “I unequivocally deny it. Under our contract, we had total control of our own safety. In 35 years we have never had anyone injured in a ditch. They’re full of shit.”
Regarding the compaction issue, Ungar said during the job there had been testers on site. A plan was in place to finish compaction testing in 30 areas this Spring.
“We had a test plan agreed to (with the City) but they still let us go,” Ungar claimed, adding “their claims of improper compaction will never stand up.”
He spoke about changing parameters of the job. Initially Ungar was planning to bore the High Street West line which would have reduced trenching. But the existing underground infrastructure made that impossible.
Regarding not completing the work by the November 30th deadline, he said that deteriorating weather conditions made it next to impossible to complete.
“We didn’t have one day off the in month of November. I was personally there. Under the terms of the contract the engineer can suspend work until conditions are right…they (the City) agreed to it. Afterwards this morphed into something else,” he claimed.
“They knew two months ahead of time (about scheduling concerns) and had no problem with it,” he claimed.
Ungar stated that he felt sorry for the High Street businesses and the construction company did their best to limit the disruption to their livelihoods. Moving to a piecemeal approach from the initial boring plan “takes time” he said.
Regarding G Ungar Construction Ltd’s reputation, he pointed out that the firm had spent $2 million in Moose Jaw by purchasing such things as fuel, meals and staying in local hotels.
“We are reputable, we’ve paid all of our bills in Moose Jaw.”
Given the number of years remaining in the Cast Iron Water Main Replacement Program, he stated the firm was initially looking forward to many more years of working in Moose Jaw. In 2016 the company had done work in the Grayson Industrial Park.
Ungar admitted the work was not the best by the firm but it wasn’t substandard.
“We did a job that was good enough. Every job you do is different due to many different factors. Some have certain challenges you’d sooner not face…but we still take them on.”
Ungar said showed his frustration with how the entire job ended.
“We have had six weeks of beautiful weather. We would have the job done by now. With the City taking it over they won’t have it done until the end of Summer the way they work,” he claimed.
Ungar declined further comment into the construction company’s legal plans.
Asked to comment on Ungar’s side of the story, the City provided the following emailed statement:
“The City felt it was in the best interests of our residents and affected businesses to take over the project and we look forward to its completion.”