Council approves $34 million police HQ but many unanswered questions remain

Posted August 3, 2014

In a vote 9 to 4, city council approved spending $34 million to renovate the 60 year-old downtown police headquarters but they don’t have the money to pay for it. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Al Horsman advised council before the vote that the project would be financed with increasing the city debt by $19.2 million and taking $14.8 million from future development charges.

That last part is entirely dependent on diverting money to pay for the renovation, money of which the source is currently unidentifiable. In other words, the city doesn’t have it or can control it.

Is it possible that nine councillours voted to spend $34 million based on the CFO’s plan is dependent on income yet to be allocated and received? How does this square with the $31 million in the ten-year tax deferrals already awarded to Tricar Developments and Fusion Homes to encourage downtown development?

This council is on an unprecedented spending rampage that smacks of fear, fear they won’t be re-elected without making such rash decisions and promises. The list is long: St. George’s Square, $6.7 million; Baker St. redevelopment, $75 million; South end recreation centre, $40 million; The Urbacon lawsuit costs, estimated $35 million; Redesign and infrastructure construction of Wyndham Street, unknown.

There are a lot of questions that need answers before the police headquarters project begins.

* If council approved the project last December why did it take seven months to ratify that decision?

* What was the role of KPMG, the consulting firm hired by the Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB), to develop a “business case” for the project?

* Why was the team of police and city staff not qualified, or able, to establish the business case to reduce the costs of the police renovation?

* Why did the administration’s staffs of the city and police department fail to reduce the costs as instructed by council last December?

* What were the parameters of the so-called KPGM business plan?

* Why did councillor and mayoralty candidate, Cam Guthrie, vote for this project in view of his promises made in 2010 to cut costs and reduce taxes?

* With the city debt at record high levels, how can the CFO recommend that the $19.2 million balance will be added to that debt to pay for the police renovation?

* Did the CFO calculate the costs to the city in the Urbacon Lawsuit upon completion of the damages portion of the trial in October?

* What is the total annual cost of carrying the total city debt based on the 2014 budget and future budgets?

* When did the Mayor and Coun. Piper know that Chief Larkin was leaving after his tireless promotion of the renovation project?

* What were the terms of Chief Larkin’s contract? Was there any language that prevented him from leaving at will?

* Why does the GPSB have the power to order the city council to meet its operating requirements, including a $34 million capital expense?

* Why is it that Guelph citizens have no say on this board except though the mayor and Coun. Leanne Piper who represent them?

* Did Farbridge and Piper meet their fiduciary responsibility to the people of Guelph in approving this expense?

* Why did the mayor, after seven years on the GPSB, not inform the board that the city could not afford spending $34 million on renovating police headquarters?

* Why did the GPSB not incrementally renovate the 60 year-old building in that eight- year period, to spread the renovation costs?

* Why isn’t the GPSB made up of Guelph representatives with a minority membership of provincially appointed members?

It is now apparent why Coun. Gloria Kovach was dumped halfway through her term, as a city representative of the GPSB, after being elected for four years. The architect of this was Coun. Leanne Piper, who not only moved to remove Coun. Kovach, but had her Farbridge buddies on council name her to the post. It is known as the night of the long knives.

Note that Ms. Kovach was one of four councillours who voted against spending $34 million on the project. The others were Andy Van Hellemond, Maggie Laidlaw and Bob Bell.

Courage doesn’t come cheap requiring critical and principled thinking.

As for the nine councillours who voted for it, those characteristics apparently didn’t matter.

The six Farbridge cohorts all voted for it. Mark your October 27 date on your calendar with these names seeking re-election: Ian Findlay, Lise Burcher, Leanne Piper, Todd Dennis, Karl Wettstein and the mayor. Coun. Cam Guthrie and Jim Furfaro also voted to spend the money.

It is difficult to understand why mayoralty candidate Cam Guthrie voted with his adversary.

Indeed, politics does make strange bedfellows.

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1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “Council approves $34 million police HQ but many unanswered questions remain

  1. Craig Chamberlain, Ward 3 Candidate

    Gerry, see from pg. 66, or from pg. 84, for the GPS HQ business case; very much worth a read:

    guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/council_agenda_0728141.pdf

    The recommendation for council wasn’t prepared to allow for voting on addressing identified immediate-term building issues such as the roof repair, which would be required regardless of whether or not the decision was to renovate or build new (that process would take several years before move-in), with the balance of the renovation/ new-build costs captured in a second motion. It may have made the voting less muddied… and perhaps with more questions from council. But to have done so would have highlighted a bigger picture issue here: the ball of issues coming together in this situation didn’t develop overnight.

    I could comment further, but I will keep my powder dry for now.

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