Is Guelph a city with conscience?
Examining the capital-spending matrix presented to council covering the next ten years, several capital projects are left out. Despite the promise in 2007 by the Farbridge administration to build a new downtown public library, it’s not gong to happen in 10 years.
This decision was made as the Library Board announces its plans for the new facility. Does the board not understand what the Farbridge administration has done? A promise made but never kept.
But there’s more.
How about the South End Recreation Centre? It is now dead for ten years. Councillor Todd Dennis, a supporter of the Mayor’s majority that crafted this forecast, will have some explaining to his supporters over that decision. Most of the many new resident family’s kids will have their own kids playing before that facility is built, if they still live here.
The proposed fire and police training facility is not in the ten-year capital forecast. This decision was made after the recent upgrade to the downtown fire station. This was money that could have been better spent on training facilities.
Guelph Speaks advocates that fire, emergency medical and police services be amalgamated into one force under command of a director of public emergency services. This will eliminate duplicate administration, training and improve coordination of response. The goal is to reduce costs, enhance training and performance of responders.
The barriers to this are numerous with conflicts existing between the three services and union contracts. It does not mean that it cannot be accomplished when political will makes it happen then the people will benefit.
Baker and Wilson Street parkades are deferred for 10 years. How does this help the rejuvenation of the downtown retail area? When more than 1,400 civic workers are given free downtown parking it only exacerbates the problem. Where are the people in this growing community going to park? Or will the downtown continue to be a nocturnal playground for the youth?
But the best is yet to come if you are a downtown businessperson. Also shelved for ten years by Council are capital projects to improve downtown roads, bridges and parking lots. How does that decision reconcile with the Mayor’s often said statement to turn Guelph’s downtown into a vibrant and community friendly place?
If supporters of these projects want to see where the money went for their projects, look no further than the $47 million waste management plant and collection system on Watson Road and the new $15.6 Civic Museum on Catholic Hill. When coupled with the $22 million the city had to pay for its share of the $66 million Federal/ Provincial stimulus plan, there is no room for the city to pay for future capital projects.
But there is a tiny irony to all this. The approved capital budget includes $250,000 to landscape to Civic Museum in 2014. To quote the 10-year capital forecast: “Funding for this project is anticipated to come from donations and fundraising.”
And you believe that this is civic capital forecasting?
There is nothing left in the rice bowl, Guelph. Get used to it.