Delayed Surrey City Hall construction sparked liens against the building and subsequent lawsuits.

A ‘nightmare for every party involved’

Lawsuits mount over new city hall as millions still owed to trades that built the $97-million project in City Centre

Building Surrey’s new city hall was a “nightmare for every party involved,” according to a contractor about to join a host of others suing the city and its general contractor.

Zoran Vukelic, owner of Wolf Masonry Ltd., says he’s owed $250,000, but absorbed another $500,000 because the project was months behind schedule.

As such, he was paying people to show up and wait and he was renting equipment that sat idle.

As a bonded tradesperson, he couldn’t walk away from the project or he would lose his house.

Vancouver’s Wolf Masonry was hired for $1.5 million to install all the stone work at city hall, including the black granite in council chambers.

“I started in October 2012 and I was supposed to start in June, so at that point, I was already behind,” Vukelic said this week. “I got the bulk of my men off that site in February-March 2014.”

The project was supposed to be finished in September 2013.

Vukelic expects to file a lawsuit for his $250,000 in the coming days.

His is one of many court actions aimed at the city and its general contractor over the building of the new city hall in City Centre.

Ron Fettback, vice-president of operations for  Western  Pacific Enterprises (WPE), says his company, and others, have been treated extremely poorly by the city.

He’s been waiting for a year-and-a-half for $6 million he says is owed WPE and it still hasn’t been paid.

Fettback says he was made responsible for retrofitting the unfinished city hall so it could be used for the mayor’s annual charity ball that took place Oct. 18, 2013.

He said the work cost him $90,000 – none of which he’s seen yet.

“It’s completely unacceptable to do that,” Fettback said Tuesday. “If we’re having a dispute, let’s resolve it in a fair and reasonable manner.”

Aubrey Kelly, president and CEO of Surrey City Development Corporation, took the lead in assembling teams for the project.

Kelly said Fettback’s claim regarding the mayor’s ball is a “staggering amount” and he questions the veracity of that claim.

Fettback’s claim comes as a flurry of court action mounts over the construction of the new municipal hall.

“I think we’re just seeing the front end of (the court actions) because they’re not resolving anything,” Fettback said.

The construction of the new $97-million building became a hot-button election issue in the fall, with many saying it was an unnecessary use of taxpayer dollars.

For about the past year, liens have been placed on the property and legal action has been growing.

The problem began when construction for the project went past deadline, Fettback said. From there, the city held back money from general contractor PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. (PCL).

In turn, PCL withheld payments from the subtrades, which say they still haven’t been paid for work done on the splashy new structure on 104 Avenue, east of University Boulevard.

Kelly said the city is withholding payments until the trades remedy deficiencies in the work.

He expects those deficiencies to be taken care by end of February, at which point, if the work is satisfactory, all holdbacks would be released to PCL.

However, litigation regarding the costs related to construction delays may drag on much further than that.

The 180,000-sq.-ft. city hall was to be complete by September 2013, but ran late by five months.

It was then that liens on the property began to build.

They were swiftly followed by lawsuits from the trades working on the project.

Bosa Construction and Formworks (Bosa) commenced an action against the City of Surrey and PCL.

Bosa is still seeking payment of almost $3 million it says it’s owed as supplier of all concrete formwork – an $11 million contract that soon turned into $18.7 million as the project changed scope.

Bosa is still after $1.02 million from PCL and $1.96 million from the City of Surrey.

Calls to PCL were not returned by The Leader’s press time Wednesday.

Bosa lawyer Garth McAlister declined to comment as the issue is before the courts.

In its legal response, the City of Surrey denied any culpability regarding the allegedly unpaid amounts to the subtrades or PCL.

“… the City denies it has refused to compensate PCL for changes in the work,” the city states in its response to third party notice.

B & B Contracting also launched an action against PCL and the City of Surrey on Sept. 3, 2014.

B & B was hired to conduct all excavation, shoring, etc. for $7.6 million.

In its statement of claim, B & B is seeking $329,540 plus damages and other costs.

In its response to third party notice, the City of Surrey states PCL was responsible for all work and conduct of its subcontractors.

It also states the city has the right to retain financial holdbacks for the purposes of covering deficiencies in the work.

None of the claims in the court documents have been proven in court.

Mayor Linda Hepner said she would not comment on the issue as it’s now in litigation.

She did say it’s her understanding the city has fulfilled all of its commitments.

“My understanding is the city has paid the primary contractor,” Hepner said. “I don’t know what more we can do when we have paid all of our bills.”