Greater Sudbury has adopted a new capital policy that reviews money being set aside for future projects and cancels them if no work has been done on that project for at least two years.
City budget director Ed Stankiewicz said in an interview Thursday all city departments were told to compile a list of ongoing work to present to CAO Ed Archer.
“We've had projects that have been sticking around from 2010, 2011, with no activity – no purchase order, no expenditures, nothing,” Stankiewicz said. “So Mr. Archer says, why are we holding up this money – we can be using it for active capital projects and get more work done.
“And if there's no activity within 24 months, basically the CAO can cancel the project unless there's mitigating circumstances why it shouldn't be cancelled.”
The unspent money from cancelled projects – not including work in the water/sewer department — totals $6.9 million, although about $2.1 million was already redirected during budget time last winter.
They include $690,000 for Greater Sudbury Transit's new route system, $40,000 for the Junction Creek Action Plan and $1.4 million for more road repairs. That leaves about $4.8 million in unspent money that will go into holding funds that can be used for other projects.
Capital projects cancelled in the water/sewer department – which amounts to another $4.4 million in available money – have to be spent on water-related priorities.
If a project is cancelled, it doesn't mean it will never happen, but at best it goes back on the priority list again for funding sometime down the road. Next year, the process will be repeated.
“I've committed to city council that we would be providing an annual update going forward on the status of the capital projects,” he said.
Big picture, Greater Sudbury has $661 million in ongoing and future capital projects, an amount that includes $100 million for the new Sudbury Arena and projects that are partially funded by upper levels of government, such as Maley Drive.
So what projects have been cancelled? A fuller list is available here, but some of the bigger items include: $1.4 million that had been set aside to build a new Farmers Market building downtown; $877,420 for a major software upgrade; $725,000 for work on First Avenue in Coniston; $590,000 for work on Minto Street; and, about $500,000 for the environmental assessment needed for the Barrydowne Road extension.
While there's no shortage of demand for the money, first to be considered will be the business cases not approved during the 2019 budget. “Business case” is the term the city uses to describe a proposed project that usually involves new spending, and it includes the estimated cost, benefits/risks of the project and other details.
Those projects include $1.5 million for a detailed design of the proposed $26 million Valley East twin pad arena, and more than $50 million to redevelop 149 beds at Pioneer Manor to bring them up to a higher standard.
One business case left over from the 2019 budget was rejected again at the April 16 finance and administration meeting: the Whitson River Waterway Trail, a $1.845 million project that's part of the Chelmsford Town Centre Community Improvement Plan.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, whose ward includes the proposed trail, said the two-kilometre trail would connect libraries, school and other areas with the downtown.
“I have been a strong supporter for every single community improvement program for anywhere in the city,” Montpellier said, in asking for support. “The project is shovel ready. The money is there. I'm asking for your support.”
But only Mayor Brian Bigger voted in favour, prompting an angry response from the councillor.
“On behalf of the people of Chelmsford, I'm really disappointed,” he said. “I really thought it was our turn.”