While again being accused of stall tactics, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland tabled two motions on Tuesday night to further analyze the modernization of the Sudbury Arena.
McCausland said the report presented by PricewaterhouseCoopers two weeks ago fell flat of many people’s expectations, including himself.
He said it behooves city council as good stewards of the municipality to ensure the Kingsway Entertainment District is going to be “a safe bet, the most prudent investment we can make.”
“I absolutely want this to be done responsibly and respectively,” McCausland said. “I think if we want to do the right thing, we need to answer some questions first.”
McCausland’s motion called for city staff to undertake an analysis of potential approaches for modernizing the Sudbury Community Arena in a report to be produced no later than October 2021 that fulfils the following objectives:
-Retains the required elements for the facility to serve as a contemporary sports venue for professional league play, an event centre that hosts paid performances such as concerts, trade shows and other similar community events and a community space available for year-round rental.
-Delivers a financing plan that requires no more than 70 per cent of the anticipated construction cost required for a new event centre and a five-year operating cost forecast that supports comparisons with a new event centre’s operation;
-Clearly describes the changes needed to either the facility’s required elements and/or the financing plan to produce a solution that effectively meets functionality and cost expectations.
The motion was defeated 7-6 against.
Councillors voting in favour of the motion were Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, McCausland, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini.
Councillors voting against the motion were Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann and Mayor Brian Bigger.
“What is anyone afraid of,” McCausland asked. “We can move forward with confidence if this comes back, and we find we aren’t interested. This is the question I feel the need to be answered in order to move forward with this project responsibly."
Signoretti urged his fellow councillors to support the motion. He said ignoring information that could potentially save millions of dollars to the taxpayers is a “disservice to the community.”
“We aren’t stopping the (KED) project. We just want proper analysis to see if there is something out there that can save us money, that could keep the tax rate lower. This is not an unreasonable request, and it should be entertained. This is just adding more due diligence on our part.”
In supporting the motion, Cormier said the motion would put in the “specificity” that wasn’t in the PricewaterhouseCooper report.
“This is the single largest investment of this generation, if not the entire history of the city,” Cormier said. “I have no problem dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s so there is a full set of information and facts, and it is incumbent upon us to overturn every stone to be able to defend whatever direction the city takes.”
Leduc is the one who called the motion a “blatant delay” in trying to stall a vote that was taken in 2017.
“We have seen several reports now, and renovating the arena would take three years,” he said. “We would not be able to have events there during that time. We don’t want to miss this. Enough is enough, we have to move forward and get the shovels in the ground.”
Kirwan again voiced his opposition to councillors attempting to have staff spend time and money on reports that aren’t needed.
“This isn’t just about an arena,” Kirwan said. “It’s about critical mass that will include two other partners, and it’s going to grow. To delay any further is basically taking income away from 600 net jobs, and the $260 million in construction is the kind of economic boost this city needs right now.
“We don’t have time. There is an opportunity cost, and we cannot miss this window. I have considered everything over the past four years, including modernizing the arena. It hasn’t been an easy four years, but it’s time to tell staff to continue with the current direction. I am anticipating in July we will see a report with timelines for an RFP, for a design build, so we can set the path forward to opening in 2024. I cannot see anything that would change my position.”
The second motion tabled by McCausland read as follows:
That staff produce a report that provides additional, detailed information to enhance council’s understanding of issues related to the construction of a new event centre, which includes, for each event centre development approach, the following:
-An economic impact analysis completed by a suitable third party that includes projections of the potential direct and indirect financial implications for the whole community related to employment, productivity, competitiveness and operating costs;
-An analysis of the alignment with all CEEP goals;
-Further analysis of senior government funding opportunities;
-Further analysis of transit implications, with an emphasis on projected costs and ability to provide equitable access;
-An assessment, based on a review of public consultation already completed for the project, of the ability each approach has for meeting public expectations regarding desired amenities surrounding the event centre.
And that funding for the economic impact analysis be provided in an amount not to excess the available funds in the existing project budget.
The motion was defeated 7-6 against.
Councillors voting in favour of the motion were Montpellier, McCausland, McIntosh, Cormier, Signoretti and Vagnini.
Councillors voting against the motion were Kirwan, Lapierre, Jakubo, Sizer, Leduc, Landry-Altmann and Mayor Bigger.