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Council set to examine consultant fees

Red River Coun. Michael Zussino suggested adding $150,000 from the capital general reserve fund to hire an outside consultant to look into a potential Intercity mall location for the Thunder Bay Public Library.
Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) CEO Richard Togman addressing Council during a 2024 Operating and Capital Budget session on Tuesday, January 30, 2024

THUNDER BAY – A possible addition to the 2024 operating and capital budget will be on the table when council reconvenes on Thursday.

Richard Togman from the Thunder Bay Public Library came to city hall on Jan. 30 to request a 4.5 per cent increase in their budget.

The topic of the library's master plan was also discussed. Red River Coun. Michael Zussino suggested adding $150,000 from the capital general reserve fund to hire an outside consultant to examine a potential Intercity mall location.

Budget chair Mark Bentz feels the zoning on this potential location needs to be explored before more work happens on the master plan.

“I don't want the money spent on architectural drawings and consultants to influence the zoning decision. It can't be a biased process,” Bentz added.

“If we as a council sink $150,000 into a project on which the zoning is dependent on, and then we get the zoning results, I think that does a disservice to the process.”

Deputy clerk Dana Earle cautioned council against this decision and pushed them to wait on further information from city staff, which was a request as part of a June 2023 vote.

Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds put forward a motion to refer that issue back to administration for more information ahead of the Feb. 1 budget meeting.

“Anytime we spend money, it impacts your taxes,” Bentz said.

“If it comes from reserves, eventually we will have to replenish those reserves. It may not impact your taxes in this budget, but at some point we're going to have to put that $150,000 back into our capital reserve.

“When we pull from reserves, it also impacts our finances because our debt-to-reserve ratio will change. This year we have a lot of money coming out of reserves to help keep the taxes low.

"We can’t go to that well year after year. There's going to have to be some tough decisions made at some point.”

The budget is scheduled to be ratified on Monday, Feb. 12.


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