Among the wealth of demands facing the city’s elected officials during 2022 budget deliberations will be the long-talked-about Valley East Twin Pad Multipurpose Sports Complex.
The $29.2-million project has been bandied about for a few years and has been included as one of 28 business cases that city council will debate during three consecutive nights of budget deliberations beginning Monday night.
“It’s a big project, it’s a bad time,” Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said. “I don’t know how many of the projects are going to be picked up this year.
“They're all important, but when you look at them, oh my God, this is not a good year to be adding all of those things.”
Although Kirwan’s ward is south of the proposed site, near the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre, he tends to represent it alongside Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre because residents from both wards frequent the area.
While very much supportive of the twin pad arena, whose construction would eat up eight of the 28 acres of available city land (the balance of which would be developed into a trail and outdoor skating path), Kirwan said that 2022 might not be the best year to proceed.
“You almost have to say no to everything,” he said, pointing to the 4.7 per cent increase city administration has already proposed.
By declining a 1.5 per cent special capital levy increase city administration proposed, which Kirwan said city council is likely to do, they’ll be able to pare it down to a 3.2 per cent increase.
However, many of the business cases up for debate carry tax levy impacts that would notch the increase even higher.
“I’m almost at a point right now of saying any of these major things, we should wait until the next term. Let the election run out, because anyone who gets elected next October will be deciding on the budget for 2023, so this is a big one that I think needs a four-to-five-year plan,” Kirwan said, adding that he’ll join Lapierre in advocating for this project “quite strongly, but the rest of the city might not.”
Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer offered a similar take last month, when he said he’s unlikely to support many business cases, as positive as they might be, due to ongoing concerns about the city’s growing debt and limited funding set aside in reserves.
Lapierre was a bit more optimistic about the project moving forward this year in conversation with Sudbury.com, arguing that it might not carry a 2022 tax levy impact at all.
The project’s business case, which city council is poised to debate, carries a proposed 2022 tax levy impact of $584,520, which translates to a tax levy increase of 0.19 per cent.
The project’s business case estimates the total project cost at $29.2 million, including an estimated construction cost of $23.5 million, design and contract administration costs of $2.2 million and a contingency of $3.5 million for design, tender escalation and change orders.
Decommissioning the Centennial Community Centre and Arena, Raymond Plourde Arena and area pad No. 1 of the Capreol Community Centre and Arena would result in a 10-year capital savings of $9.3 million and annual operating savings of $487,430.
Lapierre said the city will also apply for funding from senior levels of government and that the City of Sault Ste. Marie receiving $18 million in provincial funding for their twin pad arena is a positive sign moving forward.
“In the grand scheme of things, I think community-wise, it’s a fantastic project,” he said, adding that building the new facility also makes prudent fiscal sense because the region’s other, aging arenas are already poised to begin costing them a great deal of money.
“Everything is past its due life expectancy, and a lot of repairs are throwing money away that is a patch and not a permanent fix,” he said, adding that they can also employ environmentally conscious techniques and technology in the new build that are in keeping with the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan.
Complicating this year’s budget deliberations are those budget items centred on health care, which Kirwan said are “not our responsibility, but we’re being forced into it because we have to deal with people.”
This includes funding for an Assertive Community Treatment Team that works with the city’s homeless community to help transition them into permanent community housing (and will eventually operate out of a transitional housing complex) and $1.1 million in annual funding for a supervised consumption site expected to open at Energy Court downtown in March.
Last week, Mayor Brian Bigger sent a strongly-worded letter to Premier Doug Ford’s office requesting $2.4 million per year toward the transitional housing complex (and its Assertive Community Treatment Team), $1.3 million toward the supervised consumption site and additional funding to support various other municipal efforts to address homelessness and drug use in the community.
On the business case front, Bigger told Sudbury.com earlier this month that he’s still pushing for a three per cent tax increase, which doesn’t bode well for many of the business cases being presented.
He’s pushing for business cases that show a positive payback in terms of long-term reduction in operating costs, those that tie into the city’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and those that support the city’s downtown core.
Some of the more notable of the 28 business cases aside from the twin pad arena include:
- A one-time grant of $50,000 for YES Theatre’s The Refettorio outdoor theatre project.
- The Municipal Road 55 and Lorne Street Renewal Project, which will consist of the renewal and rehabilitation of much of the corridor from Elm Street to Power Street. The total project cost is $69 million, with the 2022 budget impact estimated at almost $3 million, or a tax increase of approximately one per cent.
- A bikeway extension on Notre Dame Avenue between Wilma Street and the Bridge of Nations to connect existing cycling facilities between LaSalle Boulevard and Walford Road would impact the 2022 budget by $2.2 million. The total project cost is $5.5 million, with the city anticipating they will receive federal funding.
- An investment of $300,000 has been proposed toward the city’s Nodes and Corridors Strategy, which sets out to help revitalize and connect downtown, the town centres, strategic core areas and corridors of the city.
- The construction of a Quonset garage structure at Lionel E. Lalonde to relocate vehicles from the main ambulance garage space would cost $370,000, plus an annual operating cost of $25,000.
- Two road weather information systems, integrating data into the city’s existing weather forecasting network at a cost of $100,000 each, plus a total annual operating cost of $3,060.
- Converting park lights to LED would cost $177,000 and would result in energy savings of approximately $41,000 annually.
- Commencing the city’s Nodes and Corridors project to Phase 2 would include a one-time cost of $300,000 to the city’s planning services division operating budget. Phase 1 resulted in sweeping zoning bylaw changes to Lasalle Boulevard. A business case has also been filed for a $250,000 streetscape design for Lasalle Boulevard.
- The city’s downtown security pilot program would be made permanent if its business case is approved.
- Enhanced catch basin clearing has been proposed at a cost of $198,333.
- Cleanup of the Flour Mill silos in preparation for a lighting display would cost $110,000.
- The third year of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program would cost the city $96,182, joining a Greater Sudbury Economic Development contribution of $265,000 (plus bridge funding of $80,948 in 2019) and FedNor commitment of $480,746.
- A film officer position has been proposed to assist local film productions at a cost of $78,535.
- A private lead water services program has been proposed to provide grants of up to $30,000 for private service pipe replacement and loans of up to $10,000.
Budget deliberations will take place over the course of three consecutive nights of finance and administration committee meetings beginning on Monday at 4 p.m.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.