Posted November 22, 2014
It was revealed recently that work has already begun renovating the Guelph Police headquarters including payment of $171,000 to the architect firm in charge plus other unnamed accounts.
Last August, city council approved spending $34 million renovating the downtown police headquarters. The approval was based on a study initiated by the Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB), performed by management and accounting company, KPMG.
The GPSB now says that schematic floor plans have been revised, major design requirement was reviewed and a revised project cost estimate is expected “within days.” Already this appears to set the stage for additional costs more than the $34 million approved by the previous council.
Tendering for construction is scheduled for next May at the earliest, with construction to begin possibly in July.
As this was a decision made by the previous administration late in its term, the new council should review the project and suspend all work until there clarification of these new details. Former police Chief Bryan Larkin and the Farbridge administration promoted this huge capital expenditure.
In appreciation, the chief endorsed Mayor Farbridge in her re-election bid despite the fact that he was leaving his position as Chief of Police in Guelph. Larkin clearly broke the law governing the police in Ontario that forbids involvement in elections.
Now he’s gone and so is the former mayor along with supporters who were either defeated at the polls or retired. The October 27 election sent a clear message that there was need for change in the administration of the city.
A good first step would be for council to order a review of the Police HQ that would include all planning and spending already made. Such a review should be independent and made in conjunction with the GPSB staff in charge of the project.
This project was one of the issues that voters questioned because of the secrecy and lack of public input that dominated the process.
Of course, the first step for the new council is to order an independent audit of the city’s finances. Issues such as operational costs, revenues, reserves, staffing, future liability facing the city, and the previous Financial Information Reports sent annually to the province, as required by law.
The terms and conditions of the contract between the city and its auditor, Deloitte-Touche, should be reviewed and updated to provide a financial summary that the average citizen can access and understand.
The downtown secondary plan, approved by the Farbridge administration should be reviewed, including the Wyndham Street restructuring and the Baker Street project.
These are initial steps to revise the capital spending proposals in order to ensure that residents, in all parts of the city, receive the services and facilities to which they are entitled instead of concentrating on the downtown area.
An important step is to open Guelph for business development through an aggressive and effective promotion campaign. This would entail working with city staff to streamline the application processes, Guelph Chamber of Commerce, community groups and the real estate industry. The objective in the next four years is to increase the residential, commercial-industrial assessment ratio in Guelph from 16 per cent to 25 per cent. The effect of this is will reduce the tax burden on residential property owners and create jobs.
A good first step is to say Whoa! to the police headquarters project.