Guelph’s 10-year capital budget dumps the downtown library and more.

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Guelph’s 10-year capital budget dumps the downtown library and more.

  1. Laura Murr

    Hi Gerry

    you said “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?

    I don’t think that this is a completely accurate statement given that the city is currently looking for comments on a a bunch of potential incentives for downtwon property owners. It looks more like the gravy train to the downtown developers to me. If some of these incentives get approved as proposed I think that not only will the rice bowl be empty – it may also have no bottom just a free fall into higher property taxes and less services for existing ratepayers. What is really happening if we subsidize developers downtown? Small businesses ouside of the downtown area seem to be left off of the gravy train. Yet their property taxes may go up to subsidize the intensification of the downtown.

    I don’t see how more residential in the downtown will be desirable or accomplished given the current noise and other problems that occur every weekend in the middle of the night. Development is driven by market demand. If there is a market for downtown residential why should the rest of the city taxpayers subsidize housing and commercial space? If the demand is there the spaces will be built.
    One of the suggested incentives is no development charges – since infill costs 50% more for infrastructure than greenfield who will pay these costs?
    More residential = more people who want services – will these people be existing residents of Guelph or people from outside our community? Residents who move to Guelph require new or increases to exisiting services that are now paid for out of our property taxes – how will council pay for these services if they give a 10 year reduction in assessed increased property taxes for redevelopment?
    I suggest that people reading your blog go to the meeting tomorrow night and ask questions about how these incentives may potentially cause an increase in your future property taxes and/or a cut in services to avoid tax increases.

    Public Information
    Meeting Notice
    Proposed Amendments to the Downtown
    Guelph Community Improvement Plan
    The community is invited to a public information meeting where
    the City will discuss proposed draft revisions to the City of
    Guelph Downtown Guelph Community Improvement Plan
    (DGCIP). The City is seeking input from businesses regarding the
    proposed draft revisions.
    Monday, September 19
    7–8:30 p.m.
    City Hall, 1 Carden Street
    About Proposed Amendments to
    the Downtown Guelph Community
    Improvement Plan (DGCIP)
    Two new programs – The Major and Minor Downtown
    Activation Grant – will address minor and major financial
    incentives to development projects within the DGCIP area.
    How to provide comments
    Visit guelph.ca/downtown to read the related documents and
    learn more about the proposed updates to Guelph’s the Downtown
    Guelph Community Improvement Plan. Please contact Karol Murillo,
    Downtown Renewal Offi cer, at 519-822-1260 x 2780 or email
    karol.murillo@guelph.ca with your comments by September 21.
    For more information
    Ian Panabaker, Corporate Manager
    Downtown Renewal
    T 519-822-1260 x 2475
    E ian.panabaker@guelph.ca
    E downtown@guelph.ca
    guelph.ca/downtown
    Minor Downtown Activation Grant
    Property owners are eligible to receive:
    • up to a maximum of $120,000 per municipal address
    About The Major Downtown Activation Grant
    The Major Downtown Activation Grant encourages businesses and property owners to consider the large-scale redevelopment of under-utilized sites within Downtown Guelph. The intent of this program is to support the redevelopment of under-utilized sites and activate properties that create more than 8 residential units or more than 800 square metres of commercial/office space. Taking the form of a TIF grant (Tax increment financing grant) which represents the difference between the current tax level of a property before any redevelopment work happens, and the future tax level after development is complete.

    Property owners are eligible to receive:
    • A grant representing up to 100% of the tax increment developed for up to 10 years
    • Note that all TIF based programs (Brownfield, Heritage, Downtown) are combined within the same grant maximum
    http://www.guelph.ca/business.cfm?subCatID=2290&smocid=2861

    • Hi Laura: Thanks for the comment, you made some excellent points. The ten-year city capital spending forecast is a bad joke being played on the taxpayers. It’s nothing but a staff generated subterfuge to disguise the real financial condition of our Corporation. Mayor Karen Farbridge does not have to look much farther than the edge of her desk to determine how Guelph got into this fiscal mess.

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