Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit May 13, 2013 - 6:00 am

Nunavut contractor vanishes from $32.3 million job site

Big Qikiqtani hospital reno job likely delayed past April 2014

PETER VARGA
Rocks and other rubbish are scattered around in front of the old hospital building in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Rocks and other rubbish are scattered around in front of the old hospital building in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
A container sent to NCC Dowland is still on site at the former Baffin Regional Hospital. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
A container sent to NCC Dowland is still on site at the former Baffin Regional Hospital. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

NCC-Dowland Construction Ltd. has defaulted on a $32.3 million renovation contract for the Qikiqtani General Hospital, the Government of Nunavut says.

The contractor’s employees left the site for good May 3, a hospital administrator told Nunatsiaq News.

And the company’s listing has disappeared from the GN’s NNI list of Nunavut companies. In its place there’s a note that says “NCC Dowland Construction Limited has expired.”

NCC-Dowland is, or was, a partnership between the Inuit-owned NCC Investment Group and Dowland Contracting Ltd., a company based in Inuvik and Edmonton.

The Yukon News reported April 19 that Dowland Contracting has also defaulted on two big hospital projects in Yukon, and that various unpaid sub-contractors have filed lawsuits against the company.

The NCC Investment Group, or “NIG,” which used to be called the Nunavut Construction Corp., is owned by Nunasi Corp., Qikiqtaaluk Corp., Sakku Investments Corp. and Kitikmeot Corp.

Its assets include the Nunavut legislative building in Iqaluit and numerous GN staff housing units.

Another NIG firm, NCC Development Ltd. has stepped in to act as general contractor until the territorial government finds a new contractor, said Monte Kehler of the GN’s health department.

Because the renovation work is covered by performance, material and labour bonds, the project will keep moving “without major impacts,” Kehler said.

The project’s first phase, which started in 2012, involves demolition and removal of hazardous materials in the old hospital building, he said.

That’s about 70 per cent complete.

“We still have a working relationship with NCC, and a subcontractor, Arctic Environmental Services,” which is completing the project’s first phase, he said.

“They’re going to continue through that for the next month or so,” he added. “In the meantime, we’re working with the bonding company to try to get another general contractor on board.”

Renovations to the old wing were slated for completion for the spring of 2014, said Kehler.

All facilities formerly in the wing have been relocated elsewhere  since work began last summer.

“So this hasn’t had a major effect on the hospital,” Kehler said. “A delay [in work] would be the main effect.”

The work was originally supposed to be completed by April 2014. Now, it’s not clear when it will be finished.

The bonding company, which Kehler could not name at the company’s request, plans to meet with hospital officials this week to decide how to find a new general contractor.

“We’re doing everything possible to avoid delays on the project but some type of delay is likely,” he said.

“Depending on how long this is going to take, there might be pressure points in our system [concerning location of clinics] that we need to find other solutions to. We might have to find ways of making different use of the space in the hospital.”

Contractor NCC-Dowland Construction Ltd. and Dowland Contracting Ltd. did not respond to calls and e-mail inquiries on May 10.

The renovation is intended to bring sections of the original hospital building, which date back as far as 1962, up to 21st-century standards.

“The renovated space will be a modern, useful clinic,” said Kehler. “There will be 22 exam rooms and office hubs in places for people to run the clinic properly.

“Right now we’re using a ward of the hospital, which is patient rooms as exam rooms, and we’ve been trying to find space for people to work on-site,” he said.

“Our concern would be that there might not be enough in the hospital to continue with this as an approach. Once we do find out what the impact of this is, like whether it’s a year delay or less, then we can start revisiting some of our decisions.”

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