We’ve all heard the expression, “spending money like a drunken sailor.” That’s the common theme this week in City Scope, whether it’s questionable requests for taxpayer dollars, accountability, or “who made this financial commitment anyway?”
It all comes together like the wind and the water this Monday in the council chamber at city hall, starting with the whereabouts of two wayward sculptures.
Seems when the Timken Centre opened, the fundraising committee, under the leadership of Hilary Vaughan, commissioned $60,000 to create a donor recognition wall and fashion a pair of sculptures — a hockey player and a figure skater.
In July, 2006 an $18,000 deposit was issued to Al Jewell Perfect Signs to proceed with the undertaking.
Three years later an additional $20,000 was paid by the city, with nary a sign of the two skating sculptures.
That’s $38,000, excluding HST at that point.
In November of last year — more than six years after this skating saga began — the city put out an all-points bulletin to determine the status of the tardy twosome.
Here’s what was determined. For an additional $30,760, the hockey sculpture will skate its way over to the Timken Centre in six weeks or so.
As for the figure skater, hey we’re talking an additional $70,000 if you want to see her materialize.
Now we’re not pointing the sole finger of responsibility at Al Jewell on this one. Why has the city let this drag on for more than a half-dozen years?
And, what exactly did Vaughan promise other individuals and groups who contributed financially to the capital cost of the Timken Centre?
Ald. Tom Johnston expressed shock last Monday with the millions of dollars ($10.5 million to be exact) in unspent money earmarked for capital projects that have been approved over the last few years.
“I was shocked when I saw that number,” Johnston asserted.
“I would like to see that updated list of where are we at with those projects. How much money’s there?”
Well hold on a minute.
For years, Johnston sat as environmental services chairman and would have dealt with director John Dewancker on many of these projects.
Is Johnston admitting, as chairman, he had no idea how the projects were proceeding and whether the money was being spent in prudent fashion and on time?
Where is the accountability in this case?
PRODUCE THE GOODS
It appears Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands is pushing for the city to build a new indoor swimming pool, even though the YMCA does a credible job with its High St. facility.
Is there, in fact, a proven need for ratepayers to financially support such an expensive investment?
This past week, Times-Journal reporter Nick Lypaczewski asked Baldwin-Sands if a needs study had ever been undertaken by the city to justify such a project.
According to the alderman, a follow-up report to some presentation to council in 2007 indicated swimming was the No. 1 physical activity that allowed many city residents to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When asked to provide the T-J with a copy of this report to pursue the need further, she was unable to do so and admitted this was something she remembered coming to council.
Or perhaps she stumbled across it while researching some other item on Google.
The point is council is being tugged every which way financially.
You have to look no further than Monday’s agenda: $100,000 to complete a couple of sculptures at the Timken Centre, $750,000 for repairs to Jaycees pool (although much of this will come from federal gas tax funding) and a $41,000 grant request from the North America Railway Hall of Fame to help it offset the increase in its property taxes (now there’s a topic for another day!).
And that doesn’t include the city’s $300,000 share on a new skatepark.
A T-J reader summed it up admirably on our website in reference to how the city spends our money.
“Times are hard and it’s about time we acted like it. The ball’s in your court council.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“You can’t tell me that, if it’s taking four, five years to get the project done, that the cost that we were told we would be saving by approving the project — and it’s still sitting on the books four and five years — is the same. It can’t be. There’s no way.”
Ald. Dave Warden during council debate Monday on previously approved capital projects that have funds awaiting use.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.