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Woodside firm gets $7.4m for work on old coast guard facility

Woodside family owned-and-operated Waterworks Construction has won a $7.4 million contract to upgrade more than half of the wharf infrastructure at Dartmouth’s Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurships (COVE).

The work is the third contract so far to tickle down into local firms’ order books, the fourth to be awarded overall — and by far the biggest to date.

Speaking to The Chronicle Herald Thursday, Waterworks engineer Greg Kerr said the company is working for the COVE construction and redevelopment lead, Nova Scotia Community College, on the former Canadian Coast Guard base’s North Pier and the North Marginal wharf face.

Kerr said Waterworks is demolishing, restoring or replacing 50-60 per cent of the base’s more than 60-year-old wharf.

The firm’s scope excludes the remaining southern wharf infrastructure.

“Demolition of the North Marginal face is almost finished,” he said.

“Now we’re replacing the decks, reinstating all the bollards where vessels tie up, and installing new waterlines and electrical infrastructure, as well as the side berthing faces, in part by removing worn-out concrete, then building out with new materials.”

In addition, Waterworks’ contract also includes building a berthing facility for small water craft, he said.

Kerr said Waterworks has 15 to 20 employees currently on-site, as well as roughly the same number of subcontractors.

COVE is tasked with “propelling the ocean economy by providing high-quality marine infrastructure and a collaborative space in which a community of ocean enterprises can start, grow and prosper,” its marketing says.

Behind it is $12.55 million from the province, $7.17 million from Ottawa (for the capital development projects), and $4.52 from Irving Shipbuilding (operations and programming).

Kerr said the project’s size gave Waterworks a great chance to christen its latest piece of kit — nicknamed The Backscratcher — an excavator attachment the company bought recently in Texas.

The Backscratcher enables the company to reach over and down the side of a wharf, tearing off worn-out concrete from the wharf face.

“It actually wasn’t that expensive, and it wasn’t key to getting the job,” said Kerr. “But it’s certainly perfect for this job.”

Kerr said Waterworks was relying on subcontractor Pinto Engineering to provide subject matter expertise for the wharf revamp.

Waterworks — where Kerr’s father Roderick Kerr is CEO and president — recently completed the floating boardwalk on the Halifax Waterfront for the Waterfront Development Corp. — landlord and site owner also of the COVE site.

Further back, the 30-employee firm’s website shows Waterworks has made money subcontracting on the South River Bridge near Antigonish ($6 million, completed 2013); enabling small recreational boaters access to Spry Harbour ($210,000 completed 2013); building a floating “force protection” barrier at the Halifax Dockyard ($3.5 million, 2009); and replacing the pontoon at the Woodside ferry terminal ($3.3 million, 2014).

Wednesday, a college facilities manager confirmed a second COVE contract, worth $450,000, had gone to Eastpoint Engineering, a Hollis Street firm that has been providing a range of design-related expertise since January.

Also since January, Edmonton-based PCL Constructors Canada has been providing construction management services, Halifax boss John Volcko said — to a value of $376,000.

The government tenders website shows NSCC is currently tendering for supply and installation of doors and frames; exterior steel cladding; curtain wall and glazing; and gypsum and ceiling assemblies. All close this month.

The facilities manager said NSCC has only one tender to publish — for a large contract to add water and sewer services to the entire site.

In other COVE news, Bible Hill-based agricultural and fishery incubator Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc. is planning to set up an aquaculture development centre there, a spokesperson for the Crown corporation confirmed Thursday.

Pending agreement on a lease, she said the operation wants to host a marine biologist and a more junior staff member, both helping to co-ordinate research across the sector, assist with selecting new aquaculture sites and advise on project funding.

Perennia also has a Kentville office.

In the past few months, meanwhile, Dartmouth-based firms Kraken Sonar and AML Oceanographic have both expressed interest in COVE tenancies.

In 2016, the province committed to expanding the ocean technology sector and subsequently announced a strategy for growth.

COVE chief operating officer Shelia Paterson told The Chronicle Herald Thursday that tenancies won’t be confirmed until the fall.

Perennia’s task, meanwhile, is to use its more than $2.5 million 2017-18 budget to “help farmers, fishers and food processors be more prosperous and profitable by offering services in the field, in quality and food safety, and for product development and commercialization,” a spokesperson said.

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