Monthly Archives: September 2013

When cops step over the line should the taxpayer’s pay?

Posted September 28, 2013

The case of Guelph Police Constable, Chris Panylo, has left citizens with a bad taste in their mouths. This officer was a member of the drug squad and used drugs while on duty and stole drugs for personal use. He was addicted, yet functioned apparently without the knowledge of his superiors.

Another officer, now under investigation, sold him steroids.

The question arises about the ability of senior officers, responsible for command and control, who were unable or unwilling to put a stop to this illegal activity within its own ranks.

Instead, the constable negotiated a deal through his lawyer and the police services board to allow him to continue on paid suspension for an additional seven months and then be dismissed from the service.

In case you are wondering, Panylo was a first class constable earning a base salary of $85,000 a year. The seven-month bonus will cost taxpayers $49,583. Presuming while still on the payroll that his benefits will continue including health care, pension and sick leave.

What’s wrong with this picture? Panylo has been on paid suspended leave since his arrest. Now this arrangement adds additional costs to the taxpayer with the apparent agreement of the Police Services Board of which Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper are members.

Did they, elected representatives of the people, vote to agree to this deal?

This decision sends a terrible message to the public that police, sworn to uphold the laws of the land, are exempt from punishment endured by the average person caught up in similar circumstances.

This has the distinct odour of offering a second chance with rehab to a man who abused his authority by using illegal substances to assuage his personal problems.

In this case he threw trust out the window to satisfy his personal addiction.

Cut him loose before more damage is done to the public trust in its police services.

Police should always be held to a higher standard.

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Is the new Guelph Civic League any better than the old?

Posted September 27, 2013

The local daily thought enough of the new Guelph Civic League (GCL) that it devoted a long story on page three to the opening of its new website.

The story quoted the GCL spokesperson as saying that the new League would devote its energy to “educating”  and encouraging voters in a respectful and responsible manner.

Goodness! Is this the same organization that fire-bombed former Mayor Kate Quarrie with lies, misrepresentation and dirty tricks in 2006? Remember the tub-thumping about the “Big Pipe” that was supposed to bring water from Lake Erie and ruin the environment? Or mayoralty candidate Karen Farbridge pledging to put Guelph “back on track?”

But the big lie was the Farbridge promise to build a new downtown library.

Instead, we got a $52 million white elephant waste management processing plant and collection system that nobody voted for. The irony is the $15 million collection system doesn’t serve 6,400 residences. It’s because the city has refused to collect their garbage and the owners must pay private contractors to remove their unsorted waste. On top of that, they must pay for garage pick-up in their property taxes.

Added to that the administration spent $16 million renovating the derelict Loretto Convent building owned by the Diocese of Hamilton, converting it into a civic museum. The cost overruns on that project may never be known.

Is this the same GCL that obtained a Trillium Foundation grant of $135,000 toward an allied organization called 10 Carden Street? That incorporated entity happens to be located in the same address  — 10 Carden Street – as the GCL. Is that only coincidence? Or are the taxpayers of Ontario paying to support a left wing political action group?

The weakness of the new GCL is that they must now defend the sad sack administration of Mayor Farbridge. It’s a little different than in 2006 when they attacked the Quarrie Administration with hob-nailed boots.

Now it’s koombaya time? Don’t be misled.

This election is not about left wing or right wing politics as the new GCL said and, sadly some in the media would like you to believe it. It’s about policies that have created a financial disaster. Policies that have seen record spending on questionable social engineering projects that the taxpayers didn’t ask for or wanted.

It’s about seven years of a virtual dictatorship by the Farbridge dominated council.

There is one truly dedicated citizen’s organization that is growing daily and is not dependent of government or union handouts for financing. GrassRoots Guelph provides a home for those thinking citizens who realize the mess the city has become. It’s needed because of self-serving projects promoted by a group of elected and senior staff that has demonstrated incompetence in managing even picking up Christmas trees.

Civic politics is about fixing the potholes, making sure the water is potable and the waste is removed. It’s about meaningful support of Canadian culture, providing affordable housing and social services and doing it in the open where taxpayers can properly judge their performance. It’s about keeping taxes and user fees at a level that all taxpayers can afford.

Has that happened in the past seven years?

In the coming months, the tawdry record of this administration will be laid out for all to see and judge. Warning, the list will be long and not pretty.

But we can depend on the new GCL to deny, deflect and ignore the truth.

They have no other choice, as they soon will discover

Join GrassRoots Guelph today and learn the truth of how our city has been mismanaged financially, secretly and fatefully. It free and simple. Send your name, address, email address and telephone number to grassrootsguelph2014@gmail. com. Your personal data will be in a secure database and only used to communicate with members. GrassRoots Guelph is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated.

Welcome aboard!

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Anatomy of the Farmer’s Market renovation cock-up

September 25, 2013

Thanks to an intrepid GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) operative, it reveals the back-story of the how the $500,000 Farmer’s Market renovation went so terribly wrong.

Let’s start with the City of Guelph website that contains a link to the Request For Proposal (RFP) that was issued in June. It is 147 pages long and is obviously a computerized standard RFP document in which the individual project details are filled in.

We did learn that BJC architects Inc., was hired to do specific design details as specified by the city staff. Not included was the basic requirement for exhaust fume hoods and ventilation or a sprinkler system.

There were many changes in the bid to reduce the cost to meet the limit of $500,000. It was apparent early on that staff wanted the main renovation funding to replace the floor. In fact they had a specific contractor chosen to do the job. They got their way.

Mario Petricevic, General Manager Corporate Building Maintenance and Rod Keller, General Manager of Public Works apparently oversaw the renovation specifications.  Chances are they were not alone, as we will discover. It should be common knowledge that a fire suppression system is a basic requirement in public buildings, particularly those in which the public has access.

So the renovated building is opened and certain vendors were told they had to cook outside. The reason given was the building was not up to the fire code. Keep in mind that before the city decided to renovate the Market, it allowed vendors to prepare hot food. It even granted the concession to one who cooked breakfast fare for early morning shoppers.  This time around, the single concession of the city was to install an oven, no cook top, in the vendor’s area.  Ever cook bacon and eggs in an oven?

Peter Avgoustis, Manager, Business Services Community and Social Services, replied to enquiries about this situation. His emails reveal how the project, initiated in mid-2012, became a bureaucratic maze of mistakes, bad judgment and ignorance of what the public needed.

Here is an email from Avgoustis responding to a resident: “You are correct in your assumption regarding, the food vendors as that is a fire code issue. With the recent events at the St Jacob’s Market, the province has stepped up enforcement of these facilities since our Market never had the proper fire suppression or ventilation system in place.”

If this is true, is it a lame excuse or dereliction of responsibility? For years the Market operated without such equipment and without any safety issues. To ignore modern building fire code regulations in a $500,000 retrofit is a dereliction of responsibility. If a wake up call was ever needed, the St. Jacob’s fire is a good example.

But these decisions were made long before the St. Jacob’s Market fire. Examining the specifications in the contract the fume ductwork was removed from the bid. It was one of several compromises made so the $500,000 maximum cost could be met.

But Mr. Avgoustis continues his explanatory email: “Were a hood and fire suppression system are required we are assisting the vendors in getting the appropriate design, pricing and permits in an effort to expedite the installation of this equipment should they WISH TO PURCHASE IT AND HAVE IT INSTALLED.”

So they are saying it’s not our fault there is no fire suppression system but regardless, you (vendors) can’t cook indoors … unless you pay for it.

This is nothing but sheer incompetence of those bureaucrats responsible for this exercise that has left the public completely out of the picture for three months and destroyed any credibility they may have salvaged.

The capper is they are holding a party Saturday, September 28 to celebrate the re-opening of the Guelph Farmer’s Market. Wonder if the Mayor will turn up?

But don’t expect bacon and eggs.

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How long-in-the-tooth governments lose their mojo

Posted September 24, 2013

Politicians never die they just fade away.

It’s an axiom that political fatigue increases with the length of time in office.

We don’t have to look too far to see how Guelph’s city government, tightly controlled by Mayor Karen Farbridge, is experiencing the elements of political fatigue.  Criticism of the administration’s policies is mounting as people question the left wing prerogatives of power.

In the past almost seven years, a sorry picture of crass use of power and incompetence has emerged.

Opposition to the Farbridge agenda has been limited because the media, for the most part, has declined to challenge the administration on some of its most egregious and costly ideas, schemes and management of projects.

MetroLand Publishing, a division of TorStar Corporation owns the two newspapers in the city. The publisher of both papers is located in Kitchener along with the editor in chief. Both publications must protect their franchise because they accept advertising from the city that spends upwards of $500,000 a year.

An example of this media lock-up by the city was a recent six part series on the waste management program. It was a syrupy collection of manufactured successes of the program leaving out the financial facts and processing details including the true 2012 tonnage diversion of waste to the landfill.

Not only is the Farbridge administration tired, cranky and careless with public funds, it is secretive about deals and contracts that have cost the city millions of taxpayer dollars.

For example, the huge cover-up is how the administration has hidden the real costs of some of its dubious enterprises such as the $33 million organics processing facility; the $15 million cart/bin collection system that fails to service some 6,400 households; more than $5 million on bicycle lanes on major thoroughfares.

Pandering to special interests including Heritage Guelph, Guelph Community Sports, more than 50 community groups, the bicycle lobby, employee unions and associations all extract taxpayer money.  The handouts have become so bad that the city could not afford to cut the weeds from boulevards this summer citing budget cutbacks.

Legal costs paid to outside lawyers have soared because individual departments were hiring lawyers without going through the legal department. Such costs are historically about $400,000 annually. In 2012 they shot up to $850,000.  The costs in 2013 will be equally higher because of the new City Hall lawsuits’ trial last winter. Judgment is expected sometime this fall.

People are asking why the administration is spending so much money on legal cases that are often self-inflicted because of political differences.

A classic example was the city’s attempt to withdraw from the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health organization. The plan was to avoid paying its $10 million share of a $17 million new headquarters on Stone Road. The administration took the matter to court and lost. That legal bill has never been revealed

All this adds up to taxpayer abuse by those elected to represent them. Let’s be clear. There are five councillors who are exempt from this charge because they are not part of the Farbridge majority. Most try to stem the Farbridge steamroller but her supporters vote as a bloc defeating opposition changes in the administration’s agenda.

It is an unsavoury situation that only the voters can change in October 2014.

The silent majority is starting to wake up.

Become informed and participate in helping to bring change to 1 Carden Street. Join GrassRoots Guelph, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group of fellow citizens and receive regular reports on how your city is being managed.

Sign on with your name, address, email address and telephone number at grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com

Together we can make things happen.

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Heritage Group’s strategy: Paralysis then analysis

September 23, 2013

The recent editorial in the Tribune calls for the decision to demolish the shoddy, derelict property known as the Wilson Farmhouse, to be delayed for further consideration.

Let’s go slowly, the paper states. No rushing for judgment.

It’s the classic strategy used by politicians at every level of government.

It’s a replay of the 11-year battle to allow Walmart to set up shop in the city.

But what’s in it for the newspaper? Did they interview the people who live near the dilapidated structure for their views?

Heritage Guelph, the 12-member special interest group, is using the strategy to block destruction of a building in a new town park that is of questionable value to the community. In fact, the vast majority of residents living in the northern reaches of Ward Two are saying: “Tear that building down”.

Not so fast, says Ward Two Coun. Ian Findlay who gets a nosebleed if he has to go north of Speedvale in his ward. Findlay’s heart lies downtown where he operates a business some five kilometers south of the Wilson house.

Findlay, Coun. Lise Burcher, Coun. Leanne Piper, and Coun. Todd Dennis have joined the Heritage Guelph group to stop the destruction of the building. The heritage group wants the council to identify the house under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Tribune brought up the case of the Mitchell Farmhouse that was taken down seven years ago brick by brick and is now stored in city works yard.

The newspaper or the heritage group never talk about the destruction of the historic Carnegie Library by a previous city council. Now that was a legitimate heritage building and worthy of saving.

Instead, the zealots who populate the Heritage Guelph committee are determined to obstruct progress and interfere with private property owner’s rights.

The fine line between what is a legitimate heritage building and what a group of self-serving enthusiasts believe is of heritage value, results in more subjective than objective values. The suggestion to put the Wilson decision to the voters is silly and the heritage group may not like the outcome.

Besides when the cost is of no consequence, it’s perceived as a matter of principle.

This issue strikes at the heart of why most voters in the city are angry over how the special interests have seized control of the public purse. It’s why more and more people are joining GrassRoots Guelph to stop the wasteful spending by council on projects that serve the special interests but fail to support the public interests. Join today! grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com

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How the wool was pulled over our eyes

Posted September 23, 2013

First, some background.

Our city entered a new phase in its development in 2006. That’s when the administration under Mayor Kate Quarrie was attacked and undermined by left wing supporters of former Mayor Karen Farbridge. The fall campaign was directed by members of the New Democratic Party and executed in part by the Guelph Civic League whose president was 2010 NDP candidate, James Gordon.

It was a thorough thumping of the Quarrie administration as 10 supporters of the re-elected Ms. Farbridge were elected to city council. It was an event that changed Guelph civic politics forever.

In almost seven years, the Farbridge dominated council has destroyed the basic elements of democratic governance. Here are some examples:

1. Removing transparency from the work of council and committees.

2. Making secret deals with third parties that will affect the city finances for many years.

3. Spending money on ill-defined social engineering policies of which there is little public benefit or input.

4. Spending millions of dollars on outside lawyers to defend or attack misguided legal adventures.

5. Increasing city staff by more than 440 along with boosting salaries, wages and total compensation.

6. For four years running, exceeding annual budgets by a total of $24,771,000.

7. With little public input, inflicting a $52 million waste management system on the city. It fails to serve all residents or effectively process and reduce waste materials destined for the landfill as predicted by management.

8. Increasing taxes on average of 3.72 per cent per year, far exceeding the average Canada Price Index of 1.7 per cent.

9. Through property taxes, subsidizing a public transit system by more than $15 million that is used by less than 13 per cent of the city population.

10. Failing to fulfill a 2006 election promise to build a new downtown library.

11. Spending more than $15 million in the name of heritage preservation, to renovate the derelict Loretto Convent on Catholic Hill into a civic museum.

12. Controlling city public communications that distort, obfuscate and are published in the local papers as paid advertising and rewrites of self–serving press releases.

In summary, the taxpaying public is blocked from learning how and where their money is being spent. Financial statements produced by the city are incomprehensible to the average person, long on content, short on detail and fail to translate the true picture of the municipality’s finances.

The growing public concern is manifested in revelations of financial manipulation and basic staff incompetence. An example is the renovation of the Farmer’s Market disaster in which $500,000 was spent on a new floor and little else. There are no fume exhausts for hot food preparation, no door handles or a sprinkler system. In fact, vendors are told they cannot cook in the building.

But it cannot all be laid on the city staff. The fault starts at the top with Mayor Farbridge and her seven cohort supporters on council. They are the people’s representatives but fail to maintain their responsibility. Instead they rely on senior staff to make decisions usually without question. This places the bulk of city staff in an awkward position of wanting to serve the public but stymied by a controlling senior management.

A dysfunctional management has lowered the morale of many city workers to an all time low.

It’s a situation that must be corrected. The costs associated with the Farbridge eight years in office will negatively reverberate for many years to come. Future councils will have to grapple with financial commitments made in the past over which they had no control.

Sadly, this will affect the willingness for knowledgeable and dedicated candidates to run for city council.

What our city needs are candidates prepared to clean up the mess with common sense and a determination to return financial stability to city government. It won’t be pretty and will call for drastic measures to give the city back to its citizens with transparency, clarity and accessibility.

It is impossible to measure the competence of this administration that reveals a budget shortfall of $2.4 million as of June and making it public in September.

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Short takes on the crazy quilt of Guelph politics

Posted September 18, 2013

Horse feathers

So they opened the renovated Farmer’s Market building in the old horse barns. Reports are there were no handles on the doors, no fume ventilation for those preparing food, no sprinkler system. Nice floor though. Was it worth $500,000? You be the judge.

Giving integrity a bad name

The great investigation into Coun. Maggie Laidlaw’s alleged abuse of city employees came to a grinding halt when there was an apology made to the plaintiffs. The case collapsed. The Integrity Commissioner sent a bill for $2,800 for a non-investigation. So, we’ll never know what Maggie said to upset the staffers. That’s what I call a bargain.

Turning derelict dump into a daycare centre

The heritage hawks flushed a person proposing to convert the old Wilson farmhouse into a daycare centre thereby saving this alleged priceless treasure of our past. The place has been vacant for eight years. Drifters and other individuals have used it as a hangout. The owners, you and I, have not lifted a finger to maintain it. In a word it’s an eyesore and a neglected dump in a designated park. What is that drives heritage hawks to use their influence to reclaim buildings with little historical significance or value to the community as a whole?

A house divided

Apparently city staff receives monthly financial updates but not members of council. Even the Mayor was surprised at this turn of events. A motion in committee demanded that council share the financial updates. Councillors must have read guelphspeaks to discover that going over budget $2.4 million, so far this year, is a common occurrence. So much so that the city has exceeded its budget every year for the past four years for an accumulated total deficit of $24 million. And how was that covered up? By tapping reserves and other accounting tricks. It’s only your money.

Soccer dome is doomed by sheer incompetence

It is now revealed Guelph Soccer; the main tenant has no assets and no prospect to offer as collateral to guarantee the original $900,000 mortgage on the indoor soccer dome. As a guarantor of the loan, Guelph Community Sports has already said it no longer can make the mortgages payments.. Which leaves taxpayers to carry the cost of servicing the mortgage with a remaining balance of $500,000. Question: If there is no air conditioning in the dome, is there heat supplied in the cooler months? Another Question: Why was this ever considered in the first place?

Your voice counts, join GrassRoots Guelph

GrassRoots Guelph is up and running with great response from citizens across the city. If you disagree with the policies of the current administration and haven’t had the opportunity to sign up, it’s really simple. Just send your address, email address and telephone number to gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Your membership will help return our city to responsible management and common sense. As a member you will receive alerts and the regular GrassRoots NOW newsletter.

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City waste management is a $50 million blunder

Posted September 13, 2013

Thursday, September 12, the Guelph waste management invited the public to review the city’s waste management initiative and recent five-year record of performance.

The soiree was held at the Cutten Fields country club where the room was lined with display boards that detailed the progress of the waste management system that was approved in 2008. At the time it was labeled as a 25-year Solid Waste Master Management Plan or (SWMMP). The purpose of this open house was to review progress in the past five years that has become a 20-year solid waste master plan.

The city also provided some tasty Nanaimo bars and bottled water.

Conspicuously absent during our attendance were elected officials, the Executive Director of Waste Management, Dr. Janet Laird, or senior members of her staff. Instead, the job of informing the public was left to the hired guns, the consultant group conducting this dog and pony show.

Some dog and some pony.

A woman questioned a representative asking why the Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) was built with a capacity of three times the city’s needs. Response: It was built to meet the future needs of the city.

Then the lady asked why two thirds of the capacity was sold to the Region of Waterloo who have not used their quota? Response: They must pay for the contracted tonnage whether they use it or not.

The lady then asked if the city was in this for the money or to deal with its own waste?

Response: Mumbled, incomprehensive.

That brief exchange really sums up the mess the waste management department has made diverting solid waste from the landfill.

Here are some facts.

The $33 million organics waste facility financed by the taxpayers of Guelph, needed the support of other municipalities. What other reason could there be for building a facility that was triple the capacity of Guelph’s current and future needs of processing wet waste materials?

It has yet to reach capacity of processing 30,000 tonnes of wet waste per year.

In 2012, the OWPF processed 17,338 tonnes of which 15,048 tonnes was usable organic material. Some 3,414 tonnes of compost or 19.69 per cent of all wet waste processed at the plant, was sold for an undisclosed amount to an unnamed third party.

The Region of Waterloo delivered 9,100 tonnes of its contracted 20,000 tonnes in 2012. Prospect of this increasing is slim because collection of wet waste in the Region is voluntary in which only 35 per cent of households participate. Guelph supplied some 8,238 tonnes of wet waste

To offset the Region’s shortfall, Guelph waste management announced it was seeking other customers to use the facility because the Region is not meeting its commitment of 20,000 tonnes. The question remains, can the city sell capacity that contractually belongs to another party? Legally, this could be interpreted as “unjustified enrichment.”

Wherein lie figures and figures lie

Let’s go back to the original estimates that prompted city council in 2008 to approve this system. It was stated that Guelph would provide 10,000 tonnes of organic materials for processing. This has not occurred and in fact it fell short of the original estimate by 1,762 tonnes in 2012.

So when the lady questioned the rationale of building an organics facility that was triple the current needs of the city, she was told it was to meet future needs of Guelph. This was total misrepresentation of the facts.

First, the Places to Grow policy of the provincial government established the population of Guelph at 175,000 by 2030. That’s an additional 47,000 residents or 37 per cent of present population of 128,000 (StatsCan).

Doing the math that indicates that by 2030 the OWPF would process just 13,700 tonnes of organic material from the city that built the plant. That occurs some 17 years from now. The kicker is the facility has an estimated lifespan of 20 years. That will mean replacement or major retrofitting in 2030 dollars.

It is obvious the Farbridge administration is attempting to create a legacy of Guelph being a world leader in composting wet waste. The insult is that this ego trip is on the backs of the unsuspecting taxpayers.

This project was built with little regard to the waste management needs of Guelph. Taxpayers were only the means to the end. The waste management officials had to attract other users to make it work. Significant landfill diversion has yet to be proven. In 2012, 105,915 tonnes of waste and recyclables was processed at the Waste Handling Centre. Of that, 48 per cent or 48,540 tonnes, went to the landfill.

When the Mayor claims that a survey last year revealed 97 per cent of the 409 respondents were in favour of diverting material from the landfill, she is whistling past the graveyard considering the city’s attempt to meet that challenge that has failed dismally.

One thorn in the side of reason, is that 6,400 Guelph residents do not have city garbage pick-up but pay for the service. Private contractors haul away the waste of those homes, most of which goes directly in the landfill.

Words cannot describe how serious this misguided exercise is and it has already cost taxpayers millions. And it’s not going to get better. The city has put itself in a position where it is financing and guaranteeing a wet waste operation that is dependent on organic waste from other municipalities or commercial users.

It also ignores the collection needs of a large number of taxpayers.

The city employees running the show refuse to reveal financial details including operating costs per tonne, debt financing, contracts with third party operators of the facility, sources of revenue and depreciation, just to name a few.

To perpetuate this alarming charade has the potential of bringing city finances to its knees in the next few years.

Note: This is yet another example why GrassRoots Guelph was initiated by concerned citizens. The organization is dedicated to informing citizens of the operations of their city. The primary purpose is to increase the numbers of voters in the next civic election in 2014. The response to joining the organization has been overwhelming. Why not join today. GRG is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated, Send your name, address, email address and telephone number to grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com Welcome aboard!

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Who was minding the store when this city-financed indoor soccer deal was hatched?

Posted September 12, 2013

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Build an indoor soccer pitch in Centennial Park and they will come.

Five years ago, Mayor Farbridge opened the facility that was to be operated by Guelph Community Sports with the Guelph Soccer Club as tenants.

Nobody considered that soccer is a warm weather sport that is played outside for seven months of the year in Canada. During that time the soccer dome sits idle with little revenue. The argument provided was that the dome, built in Centennial Park, is not air-conditioned.

In July, Guelph Community Sports told the city it could no longer make the payments on the $900,000 mortgage that has $500,000 still outstanding. In fact, the August payment was not made and the mortgage is now in arrears.

It is not clear who owns this structure. It is built on city land but who is the registered owner?

The taxpayers of Guelph are now on the hook for that amount because the city guaranteed the loan. Guelph Community Sports is also a guarantor but they apparently have no money. Guelph Soccer refuses to guarantee the mortgage although it would use the facility for the next ten years if a deal could be salvaged.

City staff has been negotiating a solution that includes extending the mortgage amortization period to 15 years to reduce the mortgage payment by 50 per cent.

This is where it gets sticky. The playing surface has to be replaced in 2018 and the Dome itself must be replaced in 2023. Both those fixes are expensive and must be completed before the mortgage is paid off.

This project was star-crossed from the beginning. It is apparent there was no business plan that nailed down the obligation of Guelph Community Sports. Such questions as the ability to pay down the mortgage and maintain the building for the original amortization period, come to mind.

Was there any monitoring of the operations, in the past five years, on the part of the city staff? Was there any reserve for repairs and replacement in the original budget?

Was it ever considered that playing soccer all year round is a very expensive proposition, particularly in a country like Canada?

Does the city not provide playing fields for soccer enthusiasts to enjoy during the warmer months?

What was the thinking behind guaranteeing taxpayer support to allow soccer to be played year around?

Even city hockey facilities close down during the summer months.

It is another example of special interest groups receiving taxpayer support for their projects without a careful analysis of the financial consequences.

This is a similar situation to what occurred during Mayor Fabridge’s first term, when the now known as the Sleeman Centre, was turned over to a Calgary company to operate the facility. That deal also fell apart when the operator failed to pay the mortgage on the building and meet other obligations. It eventually cost the taxpayers $4 million to return the operation to city control.

Somebody must watch the store if this soccer deal is to be rescued.

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Where heritage gets in the way of reasonable lifestyle

Posted September 11, 2013

A letter writer complains that it is a mistake to demolish the Wilson farmhouse that now sits in the middle of a designated park in Guelph’s northern reaches.

The chief of the Heritage Department of the city of Guelph testified at a hearing that the farmhouse was a bonafide heritage site and should be retained. Coun. Andy Van Hellemond, who represents citizens in the area, consulted with residents to determine their views. He worked hard to convince the city that the building was derelict and would cost more than $350,000 to restore.

Furthermore, the majority of resident’s wanted it removed as it was an eyesore and dysfunctional.

Despite his efforts, the city held fast until this week when staff recommended demolishing the building.

This is reminiscent of what happened with the Guelph Heritage group, led by Coun. Leanne Piper, that saved the derelict Loretto convent located on someone else’s property. That exercise cost taxpayers more than $16 million plus to renovate it into a civic museum.

Somehow, saving buildings that are perceived to be of value for future generations to understand our beginnings has become an obsession with heritage aficionados. It often overrides common sense and the wishes of the people.

A certain faction of this city council have made it their business to spend taxpayer’s money pursuing their dreams of preserving the bricks and mortar of our past. So much so that the city now has a paid staff of six Heritage employees dedicated to that task.

There is definitely a place for preservation of historic buildings and to receive public input, pro and con. But it should be managed by the city Planning Department where building and architectural values are professionally considered.

This designated public park is for the use and enjoyment of the residents in the area. That’s what they expected when they purchased their homes. To suggest the park is too large for the area is a specious argument.

Andy’s Ward Two bench mate, Ian Findlay, still sticks to renovating the building. But then his interests lie downtown where he operates a business. After ten years, he thinks there should be more consultation. He disputed that the majority of neighbours wanted the building demolished saying he had heard privately from those wanting a restoration.

Why didn’t they speak up if they were so convinced of their cause? Isn’t that the way democracy is supposed to work?

The letter writer should understand that all politics is local. If you don’t participate, you don’t count.

Kudos to Coun. Van Hellemond for his efforts to do the right thing.

Bring on the demolition crew.

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