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City hall is once again rigging the game

City hall is once again rigging the game

expressions of interest by developers to build and operate indoor multi-sport facility

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~   November 27, 2021 (LSNews)  This time it’s to do with the expressions of interest by developers to build and operate a new, indoor multi-sport facility.

The city received 8 proposals. City hall staff judged five of them good enough for serious consideration. Two of the proposals offered short-term solutions, the other three were permanent, long-term solutions. But those proposals are going to be conveniently held out of sight until city hall’s preferred bet plays out.

That bet is the city will receive a $22 million dollar subsidy from the federal government to build its own $43 million dollar facility.

The problem right now is the city won’t know when, or if, the feds will cough up the $22 million.

So, administrators are putting the entire exercise on hold until the federal government says yay or nay.

Community services manager Kelly Robertson as much as admitted her preference for the city-owned facility over one run by a third party. At Monday night’s meeting, she told councillors she didn’t think the city had the population to justify two facilities. Proceeding now with the third-party proposals would push the city project into the ditch. Hence, the freeze.

It makes perfect sense why Robertson favours a city-owned facility: it means a bigger portfolio for her.

But is it right move for taxpayers?

It’s certainly not fair to the people who spent time and money putting together the proposals. They’re clearly now on the outside.

And taxpayers aren’t going to know if they’re being shafted by empire-building bureaucrats because those same bureaucrats are bent on keeping us in the dark about the details of the developers’ proposals.

The developers’ proposals should be released to the public immediately. They’re vetted. They’re ready for council’s consideration. City manager Norm Gale offers no valid reason for keeping the proposals under wraps.

We’ve seen this movie before. Remember the sale of the Municipal Golf Course? City hall refused to release the details of the competing expressions of interest after awarding the golf course to Bruno’s Contracting. It took a Freedom of Information appeal to force the city to release the details. That’s when we learned that other developers offered more money, but Bruno’s got the golf course after promising to build a resort there. We’re still waiting for that resort.

The public deserves to know right now what’s being proposed as short- and long-term solutions that could cost a fraction of a city-built facility.

But city hall clearly feels that releasing them will give the alternatives traction in the community while their shiny toy gets pushed aside.

What’s also clear in all of this is that the city’s procurement process is broken. The Supply Management By-law needs a serious re-write to make the process more transparent for both people wanting to business with the city and its taxpayers. But don’t expect that to change any time soon. The current process leaves civil servants in the proverbial catbird seat where they call the shots… and, to taxpayers’ detriment, they like it that way.

Shane Judge

#LSN_Econ  #LSNews_TBay 

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