News & Opinion

RSGC March construction plans scrubbed

In Royal St. George's construction on March 13, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Royal St. George's construction planned for March 14 to 28, 2011 has been postponed to June after it was unable to obtain a shoring permit from the city. The application for a shoring permit is still under review | Pictured: phase I construction in 2007

By Louise Morin | Unable to get their shoring permit from the City in time, Royal St. George’s College’s March 2011 construction plans have been scrubbed and rescheduled for June 2011, after classes end for the year.

The March work would have involved the drilling and filling of 30 of the 80 caissons that will shore the perimeter of the planned underground garage.

Word of the delay was not communicated to the neighbourhood until late Friday afternoon, March 11th, and only after various neighbours had made repeated inquiries to RSGC. St. George’s CFO and construction liaison Andy Whiteley apparently left on two weeks vacation sometime before March 11th without bothering to tell the neighbourhood–or his fellow members of the Construction Management Committee–whether the construction due to begin March 14th would actually proceed.

I sent Whiteley an email the morning of Friday March 11th, asking whether the construction was a go for Monday. When Whiteley did not respond, I telephoned RSGC at about 10:45AM.  I used the business hours construction information hotline advertised on the RSGC website. There the run-around began.

I was initially told by a chirpy woman who answered the phone that the construction was indeed proceeding on Monday. When I asked her to confirm that the City had granted all the needed permits, the woman referred me to Whiteley’s colleague in Finance Sarah Skinner. Skinner wasn’t then available, so I left a message for her. When I hadn’t heard from her after about 90 minutes, I rang Skinner back. She told me she didn’t know the status of the permits or the construction, although she was trying to find out. She said Acting Headmaster Paul O’Leary knew, but he was out of the office to attend a memorial service, and Construction Manager Rudy Tomaini hadn’t been around that day to ask.

At this point, RSGC had still not yet released the contact information for the community members of the Construction Management Committee, even though Councillor Vaughan told RSGC, in no uncertain terms almost four weeks earlier, that it was mandatory that they do so.  I then called City of Toronto plan examiner Peter Raynes, whom City planner Barry Brooks told me was responsible for the RSGC permit applications. Raynes did not return my call.

Eventually, at 2:20PM, Skinner called me back.  She had found out that the shoring permit had been delayed, and that the shoring project was being postponed to June. And to her credit, she was calling back all the neighbours who had inquired with her. Under the direction of neighbour and Construction Management Committee Chair Jim Jacobs, Skinner eventually sent out an email and mail bulletin to neighbours later that afternoon, and got the news of the delay posted to the “Update for the Annex Community” page of RSGC’s website.

Skinner also told me that Bell Canada would be on the campus March 14, 2011, to relocate two telephone poles and re-route underground cable on RSGC property. Despite Whiteley’s assurances at the February 16th community meeting that no service interruptions were expected and that all connections would be done live, Skinner’s e-bulletin says “current information is that service interruptions at RSGC and our five neighbours’ homes will be brief.”

Whiteley also left without publishing the minutes of the first meeting of the Construction Management Committee, held on March 4, 2011, in which contact information for the community members of the committee was finally revealed. Under Jacobs’ direction, Skinner also managed to get those minutes posted to the RSGC website Friday afternoon.

When it next meets on April 14, 2011, the Construction Management Committee will no doubt want to investigate this disappointing failure by Whiteley and RSGC to communicate important information to the neighbourhood in a timely fashion. Whiteley’s conduct is a worrying portent that–assurances to the contrary–RSGC’s shameful record of ignoring the neighbourhood and its right to information is not going to change.

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The minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Construction Management Committee contain the following chart with the names and contact information for members of the Construction Management Committee. Jim Jacobs, third name down, was elected the committee chair, and Andy Whiteley, second from the bottom, volunteered himself as the committee secretary.

The See House | 120 Howland Avenue

The Construction Management Committee next meets on April 14, 7PM at the See House, 120 Howland Avenue.  The meetings are open to community members.

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Our previous article about Royal St. George’s construction (click on image to open article):

For other articles about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction Archive.

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