By Gerry Barker September 20, 2018 Last week, Coun. Bob Bell persuaded Mayor Cam Guthrie to attend a squatter’s campsite in a forested wood located on the provincially owned Reformatory lands. It was a site of tents and litter including drug paraphernalia. Mayor Guthrie responded saying the property management outfit, hired by the province, said it was the planning to clean up the squatter’s campsites on the property. Let’s drill down and check out the background of these lands that the city has been lusting for. Lusting you say? Yes, for the eight years of the Farbridge administration, city staff spent multi-hours designing a satellite city on property the city does not own. The project was named “Innovation Guelph” and the design model includes all aspects of planning such as infrastructure, street layouts, zoning of lands, residential density. There is no doubt that this ongoing effort by city staff was costly and we will never know how much because the YTD staff costs are buried in the city’s financial statements. Staff resources wasted on sketchy Innovation Guelph dream Further. the Guthrie administration that has no jurisdiction of the Reformatory lands is still continuing the planning exercise according to a staff recommendation made last winter. This is a huge investment of public funds on someone else’s property. In present circumstances, it is not possible that the Ford administration is in any way ready to give the asset away to the city or anyone else. It has been on the market with no apparent takers. So what’s going on? Again, the citizens are left out. Best guess is the city is hoping to secure the property using a Public Participation Plan (3P) with a private partner. That partner would benefit with full access using the development plans already paid for by the citizens. This way, the city would get its satellite city with little further funding and gain a boatload of new property tax assessment. Hold the phone! The Guthrie administration has already announced the Baker Street redevelopment project, another 3P deal with an Ottawa-based developer that currently has an estimated $350 million price tag. The city claims it has already invested $29 million in the Baler Street redevelopment. The proposal lumps in the $22 million Wilson Street five-story parkade adjacent to city hall and now under construction. It appears the only way to pay for all this is to approve the sale of recreational pot that becomes legal October 17. The Ford government says it will be up to the municipalities to decide whether to allow it. Baker Street redevelopment is 10 years from completion Trouble is that shovels don’t go in the ground for five years (2024). The estimated construction period is four years. For those folks cheering the announcement that a new downtown library is the main tenant in the project, have at least ten years before the doors open, if ever. On top of that, the cost to the public side of the Baker Street 3P is unknown. The staff can only guess about the cost to citizens and they’re not telling because they cannot estimate costs five years from now. This comes at a time when the Mayor is also promising, if elected, that ground will be broken next year for the $63 million South End recreation centre. More than $3 million has already been spent by the city preparing the design and facilities site plan. Finally, there is the problem in Guelph of a volatile soup of booze, drugs, violence, filth, and sex mixed with immaturity and irresponsibility. This has been escalating for the past 12 years with three administrations, dominated by leftist progressives who have failed to provide affordable housing for the poor, homeless and working Canadians living under the poverty line. One of the problems is that County Wellington administers social and affordable housing. This has not worked out over the years as statistics show that Guelph has not provided the necessary affordable housing or social support for the growing numbers of members of our society. These are the forgotten people, living under often-awful conditions in our city, who have been virtually bypassed in terms of proper housing and shelter. The effort of the NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations) has been the chief refuge for many of these folks but municipal government has to step up to stop the lawlessness, crime and social disrespect. The Mayor wants to hire more police. It’s only a piece of the puzzle to solve a serious problem. And who would know and understand the problem better than our police who deal with this 24/7. The new council should make solving this problem a top priority. Assemble a fact-finding task force composed of councillors, NGO representatives, emergency first responders including police, fire and EMS, University of Guelph, Service club members, Guelph General Hospital, development industry and Wellington County. It is important from the get-go that the problems must be identified then prepared for an action plan based on real-time information and make specific recommendations. Finally, raise the money. Guelph has always been a city of generosity toward causes for those less fortunate. It will take time to complete the task but with patience and clarity of the issues there will come resolution. When that happens, citizens will be proud to call Guelph, The Royal City.