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Pausing Junction East, KED referendum and ousting Vagnini from the police board slated for debate at Tuesday’s city council meeting

Loaded with contentious topics, Tuesday night’s city council meeting is expected to be an interesting one with lively debates
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A number of contentious topics are up for debate during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Included in the meeting is a series of motions from city councillors, including those that request: 

  • That Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini be ousted as a member of the police board
  • Staff to investigate the implications of suspending the Junction East project
  • Greater information about agreements related to the Kingsway Entertainment District
  • That a referendum be held on the KED during the Oct. 24 municipal election

A review of the city’s museums is also on the agenda.

Although these items are currently either on the agenda or councillors have indicated they intend to present motions to add them to the agenda, it’s not guaranteed they all get debated. 

City council rarely achieves the two-thirds majority vote required to extend meetings beyond three hours, so there’s a chance they don’t get to everything on Tuesday.

Ousting Vagnini from the police board

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc told Sudbury.com that he intends to introduce a motion seeking to oust Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini from the police board. 

Leduc’s motion is in reaction to a story Vagnini shared during the Jan. 18 finance and administration committee meeting, in which he said:

“There’s one big large tent where I was (at Memorial Park) on Saturday night, and there was about eight gentlemen in the tent and they were yelling at an individual woman, and she got out of the tent and ran for her life when other two people from the shelter tried to get her to come back into the shelter and she just kept running.”

“If it was anybody’s child down there, which obviously this young lady belonged to somebody in life, it’s alarming that you wouldn’t even dial 911,” Leduc said, adding that this is particularly unbecoming for a member of the police board.

Further complicating Vagnini’s reaction is his inaccurate belief that, as a member of the police board, he was not allowed to phone 911. 

“It just floors me,” Leduc said. 

In conversation with Sudbury.com on Friday, Vagnini indicated that the situation had been blown out of proportion and that the woman in question wasn’t in any genuine danger. 

Leduc’s motion to remove Vagnini from the police board came late so it will require the approval of two-thirds of city council to make it onto Tuesday’s agenda. The councillor told Sudbury.com that he will also put forward a motion to alter the agenda to have his motion read first. 

“This is a very serious matter that needs to be dealt with,” he said, adding that he’s confident it will receive the majority of city council’s approval.

Suspending the Junction East project

Leduc’s motion resolves “that the City of Greater Sudbury direct staff to bring back a report by the end of the first quarter of 2022 assessing the potential implications of suspending the Junction East project until a future period.”

The Junction East project is a central library and art gallery slated for downtown Greater Sudbury. 

“We’re now entering a new world,” Leduc told Sudbury.com earlier this month. “This was approved back in 2017 when we were in a normal world, now we’re not in a normal world anymore. Ontario’s been shut down, we’ve rolled back (to modified Stage Two of the Roadmap to Reopen), we’ve seen reduced capacity, a lack of travelling – there’s all sorts of issues going on.”

City council learned in July of last year that the construction costs associated with the project had jumped by 21 per cent from the original price tag of $46.5 million. 

In the days since Leduc’s motion was first introduced, a handful of the project’s stakeholders sent a letter to the city’s elected officials expressing gratitude for their support thus far. 

Signatories included Greater Sudbury Public Library chair Michael Bellmore, Art Gallery of Sudbury co-chair Paula Gouveia, Sudbury Theatre Centre chair Patricia Meehan and Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association chair Bela Ravi. 

“More than ever, we see the opportunities of collaboration and partnership multiplying – and we can’t wait to get started,” they wrote. “Being in the same building will foster volunteerism, help each other, and enhance the public service offerings of each organization. 

“We know Junction East will dramatically enhance public service, arts and social service programs for youth, seniors, new citizens, workers, the homebound, community groups and community action networks, welcoming and including all who visit or make Greater Sudbury home.”

Tuesday’s meeting will also include a staff presentation updating the city’s elected officials on the Junction East and Junction West projects. The Junction West project carries a projected $66-million price tag and is set to feature a large rentable convention centre and a performance centre.

Kingsway Entertainment District information request

This motion by Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier’s resolves “that city staff is hereby directed to gather and present to council all existing pertinent, committed, signed sureties, and commercial risks by all partners to the KED project identifying clearly the risks that are now appearing, in order to provide open and transparent accurate information to the taxpayers of Greater Sudbury.”

Montpellier’s ongoing concern is that the KED will end up being a standalone arena, with the hotel and casino partners dropping off and that “taxpayers will be stuck paying for the whole thing.”

An existing cost-sharing agreement between partners for $9.73-million in site-preparation expenses would have kicked in when work was scheduled to commence on Nov. 29, but Gateway Casinos put things on hold before that could happen.

“Now, what happens if council decides to go with this thing tomorrow?” Montpellier asked, clarifying that his motion is “about getting the best deal for taxpayers.”

Referendum on the Kingsway Entertainment District

Montpellier’s proposed motion would have the question, “Are you in favor of spending $113,000,000 on a new arena?” included on the ballot for the Oct. 24 municipal and school boards election

This motion came in too late to make it onto Tuesday’s agenda, which means it will require a two-thirds majority of council support to be tabled. If it doesn’t, it would be included in the following meeting’s agenda.

The motion might also be labelled a reconsideration of a previous decision of city council and therefore require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. The city’s elected officials already decided to proceed with the project last year.

Although city council has remained divided on the KED, a narrow majority has consistently voted in its favour. 

In the event that council does vote in favour of the referendum, the city’s tentative timeline would have to be delayed to accommodate the referendum. As it stands, the agreements slated to be signed prior to the Oct. 24 referendum date would put the city in potential liability if they were to back out of the project afterward.

A review of city museums

Delayed from a city council meeting last month, the city’s elected officials are expected to vote on the future of city museums on Tuesday. 

On the agenda is providing up to $210,000 in one-time funding from reserves to develop a Museums Revitalization Business Plan for consideration as part of the 2023 budget.

The resolution supported by city staff also proposes that museum services be suspended throughout 2022 and that a fence be built around the Flour Mill Museum. Plans to build a storage and administration building at the museum would be suspended, with the funds shifting toward the business plan, which could include the project. 

The city’s museums include Anderson Farm Museum in Lively, the Copper Cliff Museum, the Flour Mill Museum and the Rayside-Balfour Museum in Azilda. The Anderson Farm Museum is the largest and receives the bulk of visitors, which in 2019 totalled 19,158, while all other museums received 169 visitors.

Tuesday’s city council meeting begins at 6 p.m. A livestream can be found by clicking here and the agenda can be found by clicking here.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.