From the ferry dock on Pilley’s Island, NL, you can make out the vehicles lined up at the dock on the other side, on Long Island. The distance is short between the two locations and, on a good day, the ferry trip is just 5 minutes.
Long Island is reachable only by boat. Cars, goods, food, new sofas, RVs, and heavy equipment — if it has to go to Long Island, it pretty much has to go on the ferry.
The ferry is the Hazel McIsaac, which Long Island shares with Little Bay Islands.
There is one community on Long Island: Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North. The town’s mayor, Daniel Veilleux, claims members of the crew of the Hazel McIsaac negatively affected a road paving project on the island this past summer.
The 2017 paving project, he said, could not be completed. In the end just under $70 000 of Government funding was left unused and had to be ‘sent back’.
The project was tendered early in 2017, with the work planned for the summer construction season. Paving company J & J Paving won the contract. Two council-maintained roads, and part of another road, would be paved.
In an interview on Long Island with Green Bay Feed, mayor Daniel Veilleux explained that last spring they worked to establish a schedule to get the equipment and materials to Long Island, on the ferry. He said a ‘load and go‘ plan was approved by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Transportation and Works – Marine Services Division.
The work was started in July. Workers for J & J Paving were ferried to Long Island, to be the housed there for the duration of the 10 day project. Equipment was also ferried onto the island.
Multiple truckloads of ‘Class A’ gravel and asphalt were to follow daily on ‘load and go‘ special trips.
A stipulation from Transportation and Works was that the load and go trips with paving material were not to affect trips to Little Bay Islands. This left two windows in a regular day for extra trips to Long Island.
Mayor Daniel Veilleux said, “We were having load and go from… 10:30 to 1:00 pm, and after that they would have to go to Little Bay Islands and we would have load and go from 4 to 6, so the first days it was going OK.”
“It was complicated,” he said, “but we were managing.”
Hazel McIsaac crews are on a 2-week work turn around. The ferry’s summer departures schedule shows, on a regular weekday in summer, the first trip of the day is at 7:00 am from Little Bay Islands. There can be about 20 departures in a day. A crew’s work day ends after a last run to Little Bay Islands, departing from Pilley’s Island at 8:50 pm. It is a 30 minute trip to Little Bay Islands.
Mayor Veilleux claims after the first few days the load and go situation went downhill, and friction grew with the ferry crew.
The ten day project stretched to 18 days at which point it was ended by the contractor.
The contractor, Jamie England, cited a lack of cooperation from the ferry crew and lost time as the reasons for walking away.
Daniel Veilleux said, of the contractor:
“…with all the issues that they had with the ferry […] he was so fed up. It was a 10 day project that became 18 days and he had other commitments so he says ‘Daniel, I’ve got to cut my loss. I am tired of the captain. They are not cooperating so, I am sorry, we are leaving money on the table…’ “
Daniel said he was told the ferry crew complained they were getting tired from going up and down stairs.
Daniel went on to say the contractor had asked if the ferry could be started up earlier one Sunday, to get more paving material to Long Island. (Hazel McIsaac’s trips are scheduled to start later on Sundays than other days.) He said the request was granted from Marine Services. The crew would receive overtime pay. But, Veilleux claims, when the ferry crew received the email from Marine Services informing them of the added Sunday morning work, they refused to do it.
Daniel said he made calls to Government and stakeholders, trying to solve the Sunday scheduling. He claims there was a misunderstanding from Transportation and Works about what exactly the problem was. Daniel also learned around that time that a “frustrated” J & J Paving truck driver had spoken out of turn to a ferry crew member. He said the owner of the paving company spoke to the truck driver about the incident but the friction with the ferry crew grew.
“The captain wasn’t very cooperative,” Daniel added.
He said, “Some days they were perfect. It was just… it was flipping the dime, all the time.”
Daniel added that mechanical troubled factored in to the project growing by 8 days. “One Sunday …they had issues with the generator so the ferry was down. It took 22 hours for a technician to come down from St. John’s to fix the generator on the boat. So again, we were not really well served there. [The contractor] his crew was on the island, renting houses here, fed… but not working. So he lost two days of work.”
In a telephone interview with Green Bay Feed, the owner of J & J Paving, Jamie England, said that during the project he would meet with the ferry captain each morning and evening.
He claims there was no consistency and the situation with the ferry trips would change each day. Decisions would be made, then the captain would change plans later in the day.
Jamie said the captain told him the crew didn’t want to do the load/go runs, that the crew was tired and “didn’t want to be going up and down stairs”.
Jamie called the situation a “complete nightmare”. He said the project was a “good job to do”. The only problem, he claims, was the ferry service. Jamie said he “lost so much time due to mechanical failure and altercation [with the ferry crew]”, and said he had other commitments and had to move on. He added he “would have been able to complete the work if not for the ferry”.
Almost $70 000 worth of paving work was left undone, in addition to extra privately contracted driveway paving work.
Jamie said he thought it was a shame because Long Island “had the project, had it right in their hands”.
Both Daniel and Jamie separately said they want to have a meeting with key Government officials, to talk about what happened with the paving project this past summer.
Daniel Veilleux said he’s trying to arrange the meeting with Government officials to be on Long Island, or on the ferry. “Because there are other issues we want to resolve,” he said, “not just what happened here.”
The following is from the Lushes Bight-Beaumont Town Council Facebook page, posted after the paving project was halted: