Where’s the financial impact of new police HQ?

The new council was walked through the proposed 2015 capital budget Thursday and they will get the opportunity to put their stamp of approval on Part 1 of the spreadsheet when it comes before them Jan. 19.
Part 1 of the capital budget proposes expenditures of $24.7 million. A quick comparison to Part 1 of the 2014 capital budget reveals this is more than double the roughly $10.3 million in expenditures.
What accounts for the apparent financial running amok at city hall?
That would be $13 million for the proposed new home for the St. Thomas Police Service, for which refined plans and drawings will come before council on Jan. 19.
So, if the doomsayers vehemently opposed to construction of the new police HQ are correct in their warnings, this extravagant expense will have a significant impact on property taxes — remember the dire prediction from Lori Baldwin-Sands? — and this should show up on the funding source page of the budget.

Let’s compare.
In 2014, $10.3 million in expenditures, of which $2.2 million would be generated from property tax levy.city-hall.jpg
In 2015, expenditures far more than double to $24.7 million. So shouldn’t we see a significant hike in the property tax levy?
But what’s this? The proposed property tax levy is only $40,000 higher at $2.25 million.
That’s because the building will be financed through long-term debt, as was the case with the Timken Centre and there was certainly little hubbub generated by going that route 10 years ago.
And now Coun. Jeff Kohler will put a notice of motion before council Monday to “get quotes from local contractors to renovate the second floor of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.”
Let’s backtrack a moment. Kohler campaigned last fall on the claim he could undertake the renovations for $2 million. Once re-elected, he wants council to see if, indeed, that is even possible?
What happened to doing your home work?
And, how many times during the police HQ debate did he and Mark Cosens challenge the ability of consultant after consultant and building design firm after building design firm on their experience constructing and renovating police stations?
And now we’re going to rely on local firms, no offence to them. But how much experience do they have renovating courtrooms and turning them into police stations?
Or, is that not longer a factor?

We went through this exercise when Part 1 of the 2014 St. Thomas capital budget was approved. At the time, this corner observed, “The real insight come budget time is not the capital projects that receive council’s stamp of approval, it’s the myriad items that fail to pass muster.
“There’s the true indication of how well departments are heeding calls from (then) treasurer Bill Day to haul in the reins.”
Here are several items that caught our attention this year.
A sum of $450,000 for a traffic roundabout on Southdale Line at Lake Margaret Trail. Ironically this made last year’s list of notable omissions.
How about $600,000 for lighted tennis and pickleball courts at Pinafore Park. Of course we are going to fork out the same amount for a skate park.
I guess the bleachers on Pad B at the Timken Centre need replacement because there is a request for $150,000 to undertake this. If memory serves, these bleachers perhaps came from the old Northside Arena?
Is there a need for a railway-themed sculpture in Jonas Park? There’s a request in the budget for $20,000.
Plenty of parking lots on this year’s wish list: $150,000 for work at the Seniors Centre; $600,000 at Waterworks Park; $300,000 at Jaycee Pool; and expansion of the Valleyview lot for $125,000.
Now some of these projects may get a life line when council sits down with Part 2 capital budget, likely in March.

Our past council endured a couple years abuse over removal of the skateboard park in the Moore St. parking lot. And while the park appeared to suffer from little maintenance, the decision to demolish the facility was not a spur-of-the-moment act.

City of St. Thomas environmental services move one of the features in the skateboard park onto a trailer  as the condemned park was being dismantelled and sent for recycling.

City of St. Thomas environmental services move one of the features in the skateboard park onto a trailer as the condemned park was being dismantelled and sent for recycling.

In fact, as a detailed report to council on Monday indicates, the go-ahead to remove the equipment was based on a thorough evaluation by Playchek Services of London.
The recommendation of owner Jim Sanders: “As a result of the comparatively poor condition of the materials and fasteners found on this site, my basic recommendation would be for the immediate closure from use of this skatepark.”
Where council can be faulted is in the design of the site: limited neighbourhood supervision; no direct lighting; no waste receptacles, washrooms, water or other social facilities.
A report well worth reviewing by council, staff and the skateboard community.
Read more about the history of the skatepark discussions here.

All candidates in the Oct. 27 municipal vote, successful or not, will have to soon file their election expenses. This corner will put them to the test to see whether there is a correlation to votes on a new police station and contributions from individuals.
Several candidates have filed expense claims and we’ll document those next week.

All of our councillors appear to be getting along famously with each other — certainly not always the case in previous editions — even during the sometimes testy process of determining who sits on what committees.
Or are they?

orwelljpg A departure this week — inspired by a Peter de Jager Tweet — in order to remember the 12 people shot dead, including some of France’s top satirical cartoonists, in the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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