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Saturday August 1 2015
4:14 PM EDT
2014-06-16 at 23:02

Cost stays put

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- City council has decided the reductions weren't worth the risk when it comes to proposed event centre.

Last week administration came to council asking for an additional $1 million for phase three of the project's feasibility study. But councillors weren't comfortable with the price tag, asking administration to look for savings in the proposal.

On Monday administration proposed $245,700 in cuts but said the reductions would come with a price, mainly in terms of risk. Council decided to vote in favour of the original $1 million, most saying that it was the best way to make sure the project goes ahead the best it can.

"Now is not the time to get cold feet ladies and gentlemen," Mayor Keith Hobbs told his colleagues, adding some of them might have been opposing the increase to get votes in the upcoming election.

Around $75,000 was for legal fees to draft agreements with Thunder Bay Live. Deferring the agreements would have delayed negotiations with True North, owners of the Winnipeg Jets and the group looking to bring its AHL team to the city.

Other cuts, like $75,000 for the design of the hydro substation, would come back as greater costs later. Facilities and fleet manager Michael Smith said that's ultimately a $4 to 5 million project in and of itself.

"We don't know what we're getting into," Smith said.

Other cuts included $20,700 for a community attitudes survey, $35,000 for an owners representative, $25,000 for travel and expenses and $15,000 for transit relocation work.

Coun. Iain Angus said council would be foolish to try and reduce the costs right now and risk running the project over-budget as a result. You pay now or later.

"I'm quite happy to take the heat for this," he said.

City manager Tim Commisso said that's the reality of the situation. This money makes sure there are no surprises when a report comes back to council in August with the guaranteed maximum price.

"We’re putting as much as we can up front on this project to avoid down the road having any issues,” Commisso said.

“At the end of the day we want to make our best effort."

That effort is for the city's application for provincial and federal funding.

Coun. Linda Rydholm said at a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference she spoke with Infrastructure Canada, in charge of the Building Canada fund. They told her the city's project wouldn't qualify.

But Commisso said the federal government isn't interested in building professional sports facilities. The event centre would only be used by a team around 15 per cent of the time. All conversations he's had, plus the fact that FedNor has pitched in twice for costs already, are good signs.

Coun. Paul Pugh said he's certain administration is acting in good faith and at the end of the day the city needs to have the best application it can.

"We’ve all been to conference and a conversations in a hallway. I put that where it is,” he said.


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