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Report delayed

Curious councillors and Thunder Bay residents will have to wait a few more months before taking peek at the looming event centre Phase 2 feasibility study.
The latest rendering of a possible Innova Park location for a proposed event centre for Thunder Bay.

Curious councillors and Thunder Bay residents will have to wait a few more months before taking peek at the looming event centre Phase 2 feasibility study.

City administration on Thursday announced the much-anticipated report will not be presented to council on June 4 as scheduled, but instead will become public in September to give the consulting team more time to complete it’s work.

The consulting team has asked for additional time to fine-tune the preliminary facility designs and integrate the overall capital and net operating costs,” city manager Tim Commisso said in a release, emphasizing the delay will not affect the study’s budget. The study was expected to name the preferred site for the centre, expected to cost between $80 million and $100 million. Two sites remain in the running, Innova Park and the downtown north core.

"Given the importance of the study, we need to allow the consulting team the time required to prepare the detailed feasibility information for review by city council and the public. We are committed to public engagement and, since more time is required, we are moving this report into September rather than over the summer when many people are unable to participate in the process."

At large Coun. Larry Hebert is in favour of the push-back.

"I like the delay and was going to ask for one anyway since there is no big rush on this. Also it gets us away from the private developer at Prince Arthur's Landing deciding about a hotel only if the event centre is in the downtown north core, Hebert said, contacted via email.

"It was never part of the original equation and should not be a determining factor now as to whether the four-star hotel goes ahead. The hotel announcement is June as developer Joe (Bova) said so this delay in the event centre report gets us away from the hotel issue."

Meanwhile Mayor Keith Hobbs said he wants to make sure everything is in order before council takes its next steps.

"This has to be done right and the consultation process has to be done right," Hobbs said. "If it takes more time, I don't care if it takes another year, it has to be done right."

All the data has not yet been compiled, said Coun. Rebecca Johnson, who is also in favour of waiting for the study to be officially delivered.

"There's more information that has to be pulled together. Personally I would rather wait until all of the data is together, that they've done all the consultations that are required, instead of just rushing this through. I think it's important. I also think we're getting into summer and people are not as interested and by fall we're going to go back out to the public one time again at the end of September and that's a better time than June and into July," Johnson said.

Not all councillors were in favour of the delay. Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds called it disappointing, adding there is signficant public interest and enthusiasm at this time. Still, he wants to have all the answers in front of him before he makes a final decision.

"We are only going to get one shot at this.  We have to get it right, we have to do what is best for the City of Thunder Bay," Foulds said.

"This will be a significant legacy project.  We have to make sure we make decisions based on evidence: good planning practices, and sound economic, environmental and social principles. If it is going to take more time, then that is an unfortunate reality."

The report, compiled by CEI Architecture, is slated to be presented to council on Sept. 10. A final public open house will be held later that month, to give council and the public time to digest the study’s recommendations. Council will vote on the report on Oct. 15.

The cost of the report is being split equally between FedNor and the city's Renew Thunder Bay fund. A total of $500,000 has been set aside to pay for the studies, open houses and other costs associated with Phase 2 of the proposed development, which a city official says has only partially been dipped into at this point.
Follow Leith Dunick on Twitter: @LeithDunick

Note: This is a corrected version of the original story. When initially asked about the cost of the study a city administrator indicated it was $500,000, but city officials have since indicated the $500,000 is being used to cover the entire consulation phase, including the open houses, etc. The study alone is $150,000.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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