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1. Power outages

Tufts Cove Generating Plant. Photo: Halifax Examiner

It wasn’t exactly a nice day yesterday, but as blustery winter days go, it wasn’t bad: a stiff wind, a few snowflakes. In the expectation of having to navigate through slush and puddles, I wore my new winter boots, but found they weren’t necessary.

Still, about half the province, including most of Dartmouth and the Halifax peninsula, lost power for most of the work day.

More people lost power yesterday than lost power during Hurricane Juan. Schools had to send students home. The universities closed. Traffic was a mess as most of the lights were out. The productivity loss must have been in the millions of dollars, as workers either stayed home or stared at blank computer screens in dark offices.

This doesn’t happen elsewhere. I’ve never lived in a place where the power repeatedly goes out for the flimsiest of reasons, and I’ve lived in storm-prone and heavy winter locales.

Truly, on the electrical front, Nova Scotia performs like a banana republic.

I’m not a fan of the urge to spend big money to bribe large corporations to relocate to Halifax, but my reservations aside, why in the world would Tax Evasions R Us, Inc. want to move from the Caymen Islands to Halifax, only to find that the power goes out every time the wind blows?

Presumably the finance and tech industries the economic development agencies are always going on about use, you know, electricity, and presumably a secure source for that electricity is necessary for their businesses to succeed until some other government bribes them to relocate again.

Not to mention your local mom and pop operation, where the loss of a day’s sales might mean a missed loan payment or a late rent payment.

Hey, you know who sits on the board of Nova Scotia Power? Ray Ivany, the supposed saviour of our economy, that’s who. Will Ray Ivany Now say something about the impacts of power outages on the economy, or Never?

I don’t know why the mucky mucks who deem to run this place aren’t freaking out about the power outages. If the premier said anything about it yesterday, I’m unaware of it. Ditto Mayor Mike Savage. NSBI? Silent. Innovacorp? Ha.

Not mentioning the power outages’ effect on the economy: Bold! Innovative!

Lots of people are saying Nova Scotia Power should be re-socialized, and I’m all for it. But, look, if you’re opposed to that — as the Powers That Be appear to be — then you should damn well demand that the power system work. And it’s not working.

Why is left to lowly me, the usual critic of big business, to point out that power outages are a major hit to big business?

2. Halifax Water’s Quinpool Road bridge reconstruction costs triple

The “rehabilitation” — practically speaking, it’s a replacement — of the Quinpool Road bridge across the CN railcut is scheduled to begin in April, with work continuing through August. This will prove to be a traffic nightmare, as all Quinpool Road traffic will be detoured to Chebucto Road. (Maybe take a bus, eh?)

The city’s portion of the cost of the bridge rehabilitation is estimated at $845,000 — that’s the amount that’s been budgeted for, anyway; a tender for the work hasn’t been issued yet.

Over and above that $845,000, however, Halifax Water had budgeted for, and received Utility and Review Board (UARB) approval for, $697,000 to replace the water and sewer mains on the bridge.

But now Halifax Water says its costs have more than tripled, to $2.17 million.

The increase, explains Halifax Water general manager Carl Yates in a letter to the UARB, comes because the water and sewer mains won’t fit on the newly reconstructed bridge:

The bridge structure consists of a concrete arch that supports a shallow gravel-filled road-base structure.

There is a 225mm diameter cast iron water main and a 450mm combined sewer main located above the concrete arch, below the shallow road base. These utilities were installed in 1916 as part of the original bridge construction.

Due to the nature of the bridge rehabilitation, Halifax Water needed to replace the water and wastewater infrastructure on the Quinpool Bridge as part of the ongoing HRM-Halifax Water Integrated Projects planning process. Funds for the replacement of the water and wastewater infrastructure on the bridge were identified and approved as part of the 2018/2019 Capital Budget – Integrated Projects list (Water – $197,000 & Wastewater – $500,000). At the time of budget preparations, it was assumed that the new water and wastewater piping would be installed in a similar methodology as existing conditions. (This has been the method of replacement on previous CN Bridge work).

In the fall of 2017, Halifax Water began meeting with HRM and CN to plan the integrated bridge project. In early 2018, CN’s bridge design consultant, Hatch, identified that the recommended bridge rehabilitation methodology involves removing all road gravels above the concrete arch. The old arch would then be used base/formwork for the construction of new concrete arch. Unfortunately, the thickness of the new concrete arch prevents the installation of new utility lines because the road base too shallow to accommodate new mains.

I guess they don’t make concrete like they used to.

So, instead of placing the mains on the reconstructed bridge, a new “utility” bridge across the railcut will be built parallel and north to the Quinpool Road. The new bridge will carry the water and sewer mains.

In May, the consultant, Hatch, had estimated that constructing the utility bridge and rerouting the mains would cost $610,560. Then, the prefab bridge was put out to tender, and a company called Algonquin Bridge won the tender, for a price of $195,438.

The bridge secured, Hatch was asked to revise the project costs, and came back in September with a estimate of $743,948. But when the project was put out to bid, the low bid, from Atlantic Road Construction and Paving, came back at $1.48 million, about twice the estimate.

Yates asked Hatch to explain why their estimate was so off, and the company’s project engineers, Jeffrey Theriault and Matt Delorme, responded with a two-page analysis that basically said everything just cost more than they thought it would:

The variance unit costs on the items discussed this memo account for difference of approximately $675,000 from the estimate. single item can be isolated as major contributor; rather cumulative effect from the items above.

We have examined the for compliance with the Tender requirements and reason why Water cannot award to the lowest bidder.

And so Yates trotted back to the UARB yesterday to ask for approval of an additional $1.473 million on the project.

Assuming it’s approved — Yates says it fits under the utility’s “NO REGRETS –  UNAVOIDABLE NEEDS” philosophy (the all-caps are his) — the work will be done over the winter and completed in time for the April traffic mayhem to begin.

Halifax Water will juggle some budgets to accommodate the costs, including among other things, the cancellation of an odour control project at the Inglis Street pumping station.

Click here to read Yate’s submission to the UARB.

3. Wray Hart

Wray Hart. Photo: Gary Julien

The family of Wray Hart are suing the man charged with killing him.

Beloved street person Wray Hart died on January 27 as he was walking along Queen Street. Saint Mary’s University student Dennis Patterson has been charged with impaired driving and criminal negligence causing death. Patterson has not yet been tried.

Yesterday, Anthony Hart and Hayden Hart, Wray Hart’s son and grandson, respectively, filed a lawsuit under the terms of the Fatal Injuries Act. Such lawsuits must be filed within a year of death. Named as defendants are Dennis Patterson, the driver of the 2007 Toyota Corolla that killed Wray, and Donald Patterson, Dennis’ father and the owner of the car.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages for loss of companionship, burial and funeral costs, and legal fees.

The Harts are represented by Jamie MacGillivray, a lawyer in New Glasgow.

4. The plan to move the Yarmouth ferry terminus to Bar Harbor is a mess

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The town [of Bar Harbor]’s purchase of the ferry terminal property on Eden Street from the state was set to close Nov. 30. But that’s not going to happen,” reports Becky Pritchard for the Mount Desert Islander, the newspaper in Bar Harbor:

Governor Paul LePage is refusing to sign off on the closing documents without a change in the wording. The town’s attorney recommends against accepting the change.

Town Manager Cornell Knight told the town council Tuesday that because the closing is with a state department, it must be signed by LePage. Following standard procedure, Knight said, the governor’s office hired outside counsel to prepare the closing documents.

Two weeks ago, Bar Harbor’s town attorney Edward Bearor was contacted by the governor’s special counsel, asking the town to agree to a change in wording.

According to Knight, the town must agree to add the words “including municipal zoning requirements in effect on the date of this conveyance” to the closing paperwork in order for the governor to agree to sign.

Bearor said he did not know why the governor’s lawyers would require this addition. He recommended the town not sign under those conditions. Knight agreed.

Pritchard explains that there’s an unresolved lawsuit from property owners on the Bar Harbor waterfront objecting to changes in zoning, and that seems to be the reason for LePage’s insistence on the new wording. Pritchard continues:

Knight said the property could close any time that the town and state can come to an agreement, but the town will not sign with the current proposed change of terms. For that reason, the town has negotiated an extension through January. There is a chance the closing will be delayed until Governor-elect Janet Mills takes office.

The delay in closing on the property also means a delay in entering into a lease agreement that would Bay Ferries to offer international ferry service to Canada beginning next year.

“We won’t be able to execute [the lease] until we own the property,” Knight said, noting that Bay Ferries is in discussions with the state to begin work on the ferry terminal before the lease with the town begins.

Bay Ferries is still working out the details with Customs and Border Protection on requirements for running an international ferry service from Bar Harbor. “Bay Ferries has not made a decision yet,” Knight said, about whether to sign the lease with Bar Harbor. “There are some issues they need to work through.”


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thesis Defence, Biology (Friday, 10:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Mohammad Abo Gamar will defend his thesis, “Interactive Effects of Main Climate Change Components on Growth and Development of Arabidopsis Thaliana.​​​​”

Nontraditional Scholarship and Traditional ways of knowing (Friday, 2pm, Room 1028, Rowe Management Building) — Margaret Kovach and Shaun Murphy from the University of Saskatchewan and Carl James from York University will speak.

In Search of Domestic Stability and Imperial Continuities: U.S.Spanish Relations in the Reconstruction Era (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Gregg French from Saint Mary’s University will speak.


In the harbour

08:00: Polar Prince, survey vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Deception Bay
10:30: Delhi Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from sea
11:30: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre


Footnotes

I unearthed some delicious documents yesterday.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. My understanding of the power outages is that if NSpower wants to improve anything they have to go through the UARB. If it’s not pure damage control the UARB says ‘will this make the rates go up?’ . If NSPower then says ‘yes’, the UARB then says ‘no, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

    Cancel the ferry, use the money to cover the entire rail cut. Make it a tunnel from the Walmart to ppp. Put in light rail and a bike path. Voila.

  2. Is it just me or does the explanatory letter from Hatch basically say: “if u do this in the Summer , and not the winter, you’ll save a lot of money”?

  3. Whenever such a minor storm caused Nova Scotia Power electrical grid to collapse, I always recall the remarkable response of Nova Scotia’s electrical company to the Halifax Explosion in the 1917. The disaster killed nine power company employees (a big chunk of a small workforce) knocked down lines all over town and smashed in all the windows of their only power plant, filling the generators with glass. In spite of this they mobilized to have the power back on all over Halifax by 6 pm (excepting the devastated area where little was left standing.) I know it is an apples to oranges comparison. The grid and the number of customers in 1917 was so much smaller (but so was their workforce and resources) and they were not “blessed” by an executive who draw millions in compensation but can’t seem to consistently provide electricity in the winter.

  4. A few years back we had salty fog as the general excuse for NSP shut down.

    Now it seems it’s cozy hanging main lines!

    Putting them underground in conduits with all other utils. is THE only long term solution!

  5. Well Dog bless you for bringing up this NS Power fiasco. Yesterday, I had the challenge of trying to sell hats at the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market in the complete darkness. Any vendor relying on electricity to prepare food, lost a lot of product. My husband’s business was shut down..the whole damn town was shut down. This was all before the wind even picked up. I suspect someone sneezed on our power grid and took the whole thing down. I kept wondering if there was some sort of standard to be a part of Canada. And then I thought about the federal government legislating the postal workers back to work because of their concern for the businesses, large and small, who rely on the postal service. Does this sort of thinking only work for labour disputes? Can government not demand a standard for power supply from a private corporation? Maybe if we just keep talking about all the hard working men and women who are working through the night to restore power we’ll all forget that we deserve to not live like a developing nation. I saw the hashtag #NSPowerSucks yesterday. I think this needs to be used more often.

  6. Didn’t MacNeil come out and blame the public for the outages yesterday? Saying something to the effect that NIMBYs are preventing proper tree trimming around power lines, so it’s all of our faults?

    He’s a fucking lunatic. Nice Trump-speak on his part.

      1. Oh please, I had to practically beg NSP to come trim my trees and even then all they did was drive by and say that it wasn’t necessary. Only by my contracting a private tree trimmer did they send out a crew to trim around the power lines.

        1. It’s ridiculous on many fronts, not the least of which is that transmission lines from Cape Breton to Halifax are not those tiny lines in front of people’s houses; they’re the giant lines way up in the air hanging off giant towers. Moreover, the big transmission lines are entirely on Nova Scotia Power’s right-of-way; it’s entirely their responsibility to clear the lines, and homeowners have no say it.

          There might be an area here or there in the province where tree-clearing is an issue with the transmission lines, but we don’t have the steep canyons found in California, where it’s a huge issue.

      2. This guy is still in denial about how his government wrecked our film industry. He even blamed the nay-saying of it’s survivors for driving away business.

  7. I try to avoid the rose-tinted glasses attitude that They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To, but it’s pretty incredible that bridge builders a hundred years ago were able to construct something that not only lasted a hundred years but also included what by today’s standards is impossible: some pipes.

  8. For years I referred to NS as a banana republic – it certainly meets the definition. But of course this term is a racist, colonial insult against “third-world” “developing” nations who are often the victims of the same white supremacist power structures that keeps, yes, even poor white Nova Scotians beholden to unconscionable wanton greed. This is wholly manifest is Emera not only screwing Scotians, but also the people of Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominica and St. Lucia through their Caribbean subsidiary.