CITY VIEW – The saga of the Sleeman time clock

Modified April 11, 2013

By John Carroll

Funny you should mention the Sleeman Centre score clock in one of your recent guelphspeaks posts. There is quite a story behind it.

During the time we were getting railroaded (literally) by the city, I read a letter to the editor from someone who was upset that the City would not provide access to water and hydro on City owned land for the Guelph Junction Express. Yet the City purchased a new score clock for the Guelph Storm and questioned how this was different.

Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert, responded to the letter by stating that the Sleeman Centre was a public building and new score clock could be used by the public (for a fee or course). Let’s hold that thought for a minute.

I decided to investigate the score clock purchase further and this is what I found:

City Parks and recreation manager, Colleen Clack, stated that the score clock at the Sleeman Centre (which was not even 10 years old) needed to be replaced because it was nearing the end of its life, (clock has a life?) I thought this strange as these clocks are pretty rugged. Most of the equipment at Centennial, Exhibition and Victoria Road has been there since I played minor hockey 40 years ago.

I found the actual company (based in Guelph) that installed the original score clock for the new Sleeman Centre (known as the GSEC at the time). The owner said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the original score clock as he was the one who maintained it. He actually had the discarded clock at his location as he was the one who removed it to make way for the new score clock which was purchased from out of town. He said with proper maintenance these clocks could easily last 20-25 years (or beyond).

I asked what he charged the city to maintain the clock and he said nothing really. He would drop in from time to time to have a coffee with the building manager and, if asked, would tweak or adjust something if needed, at no charge.
The price of the flashy new clock was $750,000 with the cost split 3 ways under the 2009 stimulus program between all 3 levels of government.

So the City spent $250,000 for a new clock that we know didn’t need to be replaced. We need to ask ourselves, why? Some cited that our clock was boring and didn’t measure up to other OHL arenas so it was obviously purchased to help the Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business). The new clock also provides the Storm with a new stream of revenue as they receive 60% of the advertising revenue from the clock.

To add insult to injury, if you suspected a new clock such as this required a service contract, you would be correct to the tune of $9,700 per year. But if you thought that the cost of this annual service contract would come off the top of the generated advertising revenue, you would be wrong. The City pays 100% of this service contract.

So let’s recap:
The city claimed that they could not clear the snow on a sidewalk that runs from Woolwich Street down to the path that runs along the tracks before our train excursions because this would be bonusing a private business and a violation of the Municipal Act (by city definition). The sidewalk in question is, of course, owned by the city where citizens and people from out of town needed to get from the parking garage down to board our train.
Yet:
• The City spent $250,000 of public money to buy the Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business) a new score clock to keep up appearances with other OHL arenas (a clear violation of the Municipal Act).
• The Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business) is also provided a new revenue stream of 60% of the advertising revenue generated by the new clock (another violation of the Municipal Act).
• The City pays 100% of the annual $9,700 maintenance contract.

I do not want to leave the impression that the Guelph Storm Hockey club is to be blamed for any of this. It was the result of a decision made by the city administration.

It is interesting to note that that the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium recently underwent $9 million in refurbishments and upgrades to better accommodate the Kitchener Rangers but the Rangers paid 100% of these costs. If this happened in Guelph, guess who would be footing the bill?

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6 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

6 responses to “CITY VIEW – The saga of the Sleeman time clock

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    It is worthy to note that “the clock is ticking” for the current administration and when the clock strikes midnite on election day in 2014, it will have “run out of time”. There will be no overtime for its members.

  2. jpphelan55@hotmail.com

    More evidence to clarify how disfunctionally the city of Guelph is run…….the list just continues to get longer and longer and longer and……..

  3. geo

    Is this not considered to be fraud?
    At the very least it’s now time for the hockey team to pick up the tab for maintenance, then the City and the Storm can work out a repayment schedule.
    If the Storm can’t make it on their own by now then they should be shut down.

    • Geo: I would hesitate to call it fraud. It is a another example of mismanagement by the city. Of course if the Storm organization (a profit making enterprise) wanted a new time clock, then pay for it. Why should the taxpayers pick up the bill for a 40 per cent share of the advertising revenue and pay the $9,700 annual maintenance? Does anyone at City Hall understand how to construct a deal in the taxpayer’s interests? I am reminded of the deal that Mayor Farbridge, in her first term of office, and her CAO concocted with a company in Calgary a deal to run the Sleeman Centre. That ended up costing Guelph taxpayers some $4 million to get out of the arrangement. Deja Vu?

    • joseph paul phelan

      Another one of Farbridges accomplishments….and on the clock issue maybe the clock could be replaced and we stick her up on the wall and she can holler out the time during games….would give her something useful and productive to do which would not take too much intelligence and would be less taxing on the poor thing……

  4. geo

    Why are we subsidizing an OHL team? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? You want a team in your city because it brings money in. Credit not debit. Instead it appears were using tax dollars so someone else’s spoiled kid can play hockey.

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