Contruction conflict
Contractor answers charges

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 08/99) - A complaint made by a carpenter working in Inuvik this summer, has turned into a case of he said, he said, when the local construction company responded with charges of its own.

The carpenter, James Irvine, is currently living in Gibsons, B.C., but said he once resided in Inuvik and ran a small contracting company of his own here.

Irvine said he returned to Inuvik last summer with construction partner Damon Hurst, to take advantage of the upswing in the economy.

"Friends here said the oil and gas business was happening again and to come up because that meant development," Irvine said.

But he said he didn't get the experience he was looking for.

Hired on by Northern Management Development and subcontracting to Hurst, Irvine said construction at the old Jumbo Video store and two homes on the same lot progressed smoothly, at first.

After travelling home and returning to Inuvik on Aug. 8, Irvine said things began to go very wrong -- including unpaid wages, having to work with recycled wood taken from Grollier Hall and simply, lack of materials and equipment.

Irvine said events came to a head on Aug. 19, when he went to Northern management's office to ask company president Sam Kassem for payment and a scuffle ensued. Kassem argued that he'd paid for Irvine's flight home, paid his rent and was unhappy at the lack of progress on the work started. Irvine then left Inuvik.

Calling from British Columbia last week, Irvine said he's still owed several thousand dollars for the job but has all but given up hope of seeing it.

"The big thing is, you can't treat people this way," he said. "I worked up North for a long time and most people who do professional work base their agreements on handshakes, but I can't do that anymore -- I'm disillusioned."

For his part, Kassen said it's the company that's owed more than $2,000 by Irvine, and that he's had to have much of Irvine's work done over by another contractor because of poor workmanship.

As for using materials recycled from Grollier Hall, Kassen said the extra time it takes to remove nails and prepare recycled wood for the new project is calculated in the contract. Kassen said he took a chance on hiring Irvine, and lost.