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Financial waterfront issues continue

Dear Editor, It was pretty entertaining watching city council debate the waterfront co-ordinator’s latest request for more funding for the Prince Arthur’s Landing project. Coun.
Dear Editor,

It was pretty entertaining watching city council debate the waterfront co-ordinator’s latest request for more funding for the Prince Arthur’s Landing project.

Coun. Mark Bentz was amazed by the complexity of the project, an interesting admission at this late date. Considering he is Chair of the Waterfront Committee, one would expect him to understand the project in detail.

To his credit, Bentz recognized that there is going to be a problem for pedestrians getting into the park on the fancy new wheelchair accessible ramp, also known as the Skateboard Park Expansion, that is planned at the foot of Red River Road.

Bentz vainly suggested that some stairs would improve the new access but was overruled by the waterfront co-ordinator and the Landscape Firm. Imagine the chaos of 6,000-to-7,000 people exiting the park at this new bottleneck after the Blues Festival or Canada Day, once the Camelot Street exit is closed.

Many of the councillors had questions about parking. This was one of the main concerns of the Ontario Municipal Board appeal last year. The Waterfront planners have done little to address the critical shortage of parking other than making the market square into a parking lot and adding back parking onto Pier 1.

Coun. Rydholm tried vainly to get an answer from where the extra $2 million dollars required for the project was coming. Debentures she was told. Double speak for the City is going to borrow more money for this project. After some discussion, Coun. Johnson managed to wring a promise for more frequent reporting on the Waterfront Project out of city administration.

Surprisingly, none of the Councillors questioned the need for these new buildings in Marina Park. Apparently, the city is getting a new visitor and tourist information centre as part of the package. What is to become of the tourist information in the historic Pagoda just across Water Street?

The arts community will be blessed with lovely new digs in the form of a glass enclosed building where the public will be able to see artisans working. The critical question of who pays to heat and rent these buildings was not discussed.

One councillor did suggest that a business plan was needed, a great idea since most artists are quite poor and it would be good to know who it is that can afford this space before we build it. Given many of these same Councillors have been vocal about not supporting special use facilities such as golf courses, one would think they would be more concerned about how the city is going to pay for the ongoing maintenance of these new buildings.

After turfing out the restaurants in the train station, the city will now be building a new glass enclosed year-round restaurant space with our taxes.

Why council is building more civic buildings in Marina Park is a mystery when there are hundreds of square feet of vacant storefronts in the Port Arthur Ward alone, just across the tracks.

Too bad no one asked why this plan is going ahead at all. The predominant rationale seemed to be, we’ve got to spend all the federal and provincial insfrastructure funding before March 2011. What a pathetic excuse for continuing to spend our taxes on this foolish project. Forty-nine million dollars would have made an amazing bike path from one end of this city to another. It could have provided the bulk of funding for a new multipurpose facility. It could have gone a long way to addressing the $300 million in infrastructure renewal that is needed.
Heather Woodbeck,
Thunder Bay

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