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‘I am not letting it slide’: Unpaid B.C. contractor speaks out in relation to Quesnel works facility

Russell Hixson
‘I am not letting it slide’: Unpaid B.C. contractor speaks out in relation to Quesnel works facility

It has been months since the City of Quesnel completed its new $13-million public works facility and contractors claim they still haven’t been paid.

“This happens way too much and they get away with it too easy,” said Jeff Lefebvre, owner of Design Flooring in Quesnel. “I am not letting it slide.”

Lefebvre said he has been patient with the city and the project’s general contractor but has already had to pay his costs from other work. “I have to pay bills,” said Lefebvre. “I need money coming in and going out. What they owe isn’t just profit. I paid my suppliers, my floor layers, freight costs. I had to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

When he was told by the city to pursue the general contractor to try and get payment, Lefebvre decided to speak out.

When asked for comment on the project, the city referred to a press release that explained its efforts to get subcontractors paid and the city’s financial obligations on the project.

“When the city became aware of some unpaid subcontractors, the city worked with the general contractor to provide some payments directly to subcontractors from funds the city still owed to the general contractor to the extent that the contract and the law allowed,” reads the statement. “The city has now paid all funds owing on this project except for the builder’s lien and deficiency holdbacks.”

Lefebvre said that had the city bonded the project, payment would have flowed. He added the project’s documents called for bonding when he tendered, but officials eventually decided not to include that provision. He claims there are at least six other contractors who collectively are owed roughly $1 million for work on the facility.

City officials noted there is no requirement to bond every construction project and in this case the decision was made by senior staff based on cost implications, project circumstances, pre-qualification of the general contractor and “a variety of other factors.”

“There is no bonding available to provide for payment of subcontractors, but the city will continue to work with the general contractor to try to encourage full payment of any unpaid subcontractors,” reads the city’s release.

The general contractor, Vic Van Isle (VVI) Construction, did not respond to a request for comment as of deadline.

Lefebvre noted the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused disruption to businesses in the city, and not getting paid is another hardship.

“These are Quesnel businesses trying to run and employ people and we don’t have funds coming in,” he said. “I hope none of these companies fail. I want us all to succeed. I have to look after my guys and pay my staff. They rely on me.”

Lefebvre said while he is frustrated, he has been in touch with the city and the general contractor and is optimistic that the issue can be resolved.

Officials said unpaid subcontractors should contact the general contractor and the funds held by the city under the Builders Lien Act will be dealt with in accordance with the requirements of that legislation.

The city replaced the old public works facility after it became decayed and inefficient. It also was located in the floodplain of the Quesnel River.

The city worked to reduce the costs for the new facility while at the same time retaining the functionality. Through a process of simplifying the building, reducing the size of various parts of the buildings and reducing the size of the ancillary buildings, the city was able to trim the estimated cost

for the site and facility works to $12.7 million.

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