'Scary situation' played out between competing construction companies on TCH near St. John's

Bill Farrell has owned and operated Farrell's Excavating since 1990. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Bill Farrell has owned and operated Farrell's Excavating since 1990. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

A long rivalry between two of Newfoundland and Labrador's biggest road construction companies came to a head this week, resulting in smashed windows and a police investigation.

Barriers near Municipal Construction and Farrell's Excavating — both located just off the Trans-Canada Highway near the developing Galway subdivision in St. John's — have been torn down in a wild scene that played out on Thursday.

Bill Farrell has owned and operated Farrell's Excavating since 1990. He says things have turned from bad to worse between his company and the competition at the site of a construction job near Exit 41.

Farrell won the contract late last year for the job, which will see a new interchange to open up better access to Galway. The job is essentially on the doorstep of his company, and that of his competition, Municipal Construction, owned by Carl Healey. Farrell's contract calls for a temporary access road so Healey's trucks don't lose access to the highway.

On Thursday, Farrell's removed traffic barriers from an existing Municipal gate and installed a new gate closer to the company's head office.

"I had a job to move the gates here yesterday to protect somebody else's property and it's in my contract to do it," Farrell told CBC News on Friday.

But the placement apparently didn't sit well with Healey.

"He just scooped them up, ran out, beat the windows out of my loader with the gate, dumped the gates," Farrell said. "Flaggers were stood up here, and there was just people running and there was just absolutely no need of what went on here yesterday."

Farrell said Healey was the driver of the machine used to destroy the gate and that Healey was "well aware" of what was going on, where his job was located, where the gates were going and they weren't on Healey's property, but near the entrance.

Darryl Murphy/CBC
Darryl Murphy/CBC

Nobody was in the damaged loader at the time.

"It was a very scary situation," said Farrell.

"Government officials actually notified him a day ahead of time, then we done it a day later. So he had ample warning. He's had drawings, he had input and he knew exactly what was going to go on here. There was no surprise or anything as to what's been happening here."

Videos of the incident have circulated on social media.

Farrell said his flagsperson nearest the incident didn't return to work Friday; three stop signs have been placed instead. Other employees also opted to stay away, he said.

Darryl Murphy/CBC
Darryl Murphy/CBC

He said he is suing Healey for damages.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responded to the scene with three cruisers and is investigating.

Farrell wants that to go a step further, with the province taking on its own investigation through the Occupational Health and Safety division to have charges laid.

"To operate that backhoe the way that man did is just totally ridiculous. [He] nearly killed one of my flagpeople," he said.

"Anything could have happened here yesterday. It's just beyond what I can even imagine."

Healey declined to do a recorded interview with CBC News but did admit to removing the gate. He said he wasn't given the promised three-day notice of the gate work and that the temporary access road is incomplete and poorly designed.

He said he will pay to repair the damaged loader but isn't apologizing.

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