[YARMOUTH, NS] — Four months ago, when Ian McNicol, president of Garian Construction, spoke to the Vanguard about the situation with the South West Shore Development Authority, he said the matter had been difficult and frustrating, but he expressed hope that it would be settled.
Of the local companies and groups owed money by SWSDA, the area’s former regional development authority, none is owed more than Garian Construction of Yarmouth County.
The company was the general contractor for the community centre that was built at École secondaire de Par-en-Bas in Tusket. As of January 2010, SWDSA owed the company around $367,000 for its work on the project.
The development authority ceased operations in June 2010 and its troubles — including the money it owed at the time of its demise — have been well documented.
The latest chapter was the release a month ago of the results of a forensic audit that identified various issues concerning how SWSDA operated.
Meanwhile, Garian Construction and others owed money by the former development authority remain unpaid.
Discussing the issue last week, McNicol spoke — as he had in the spring — about how the whole situation has been frustrating, particularly given that SWSDA was a government creation.
“Everybody I talk to, they’re still surprised that this hasn’t been settled yet,” he said.
He doesn’t just mean his own company but anyone owed money in this matter, he said.
“Yesterday I ran into a business person from Yarmouth and he said ‘have you ever been taken care of by the government?’ I tell him (no) and he just couldn’t believe it. A lot of people just assume it’s been taken care of.”
When the audit report on SWSDA, carried out by Ernst and Young, was made public, Percy Paris, Nova Scotia’s minister of economic and rural development and tourism, said the province had told those owed money to seek legal advice.
McNicol already had done so and said last week he was waiting to hear back from his lawyers about what course of action to take.
“I’m gathering some more information,” he said, adding that he still holds out hope that the issue can be settled.
“Everybody I talk to,” he said, “other than our provincial government … (says) this shouldn’t have to go to court. It only takes a meeting of the minds.”
When the audit results were released a month ago, the economic development minister said the report would be turned over, “without judgment,” to the RCMP. An official with Paris’s department said last week there was no new information.
As for McNicol’s company, not much has changed since the spring, he said, adding that his workforce is still just over 20 people. The company has fared pretty well, he said, considering the economic slowdown.
With regard to the SWSDA issue and those affected by it, he says it’s a matter of fairness.
“This shouldn’t happen,” he said.