Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, December 19, 2006




Monday, December 18, 2006

Will Council Have The Guts To Say NO


Do you remember when you bought your last home?

I bet you forgot about the horrible colour scheme, the wallpaper that was torn and ripped. And the carpeting, why how could anyone live with shag carpets when they had dogs! Remember that you wanted to get in there right after the deal was signed to rip out everything and redecorate. Until your lawyer absolutely forbade you from doing so.

Those lawyers are such stick-in-the-muds you thought at the time. Sure, if something went wrong, you would be out of all of that redocrating money but what could possibly go wrong!

And why anyone would want to waste a few hundred dollars on a home inspection. Of course your lawyer made you insert that silly clause in the Offer of Purchase and Sale to allow you to do so. Obviously, you did not know that much about wiring and plumbing so that when the home inspector told you that you could NOT get home insurance until you ripped out the old wiring and put in new pipes, you could have hugged your solicitor since you got the house price reduced to cover the thousands of dollars in extra costs!

I am reminded by all of this because of two deals that again could cost the City greatly since they could fall apart.

College's takeover of Cleary delayed

We learned that the City-St. Clair deal has a problem: the deal is delayed until March "so the college can complete a thorough inspection of the building." Funny, the deal was to have been completed in October so why is the College now hiring "building inspectors to look at the Cleary's roof and other areas to satisfy its board of governors there are no structural issues that need to be addressed before the college takes over." Why wasn't that done before? Did something prompt the College to take this step?

We learned that the deal is NOT signed yet. What if there are structural problems, then what? Is the deal dead? What would the costs of repair be? Who pays? Would it be re-negotiated? Can you imagine if St. Clair threatened to walk away from it at this time!

Another question is whether the City knew about possible defects. If it did not, then were the facilities people doing their job. If it did, did the City tell St. Clair about it? If not, why not?

What a mess this could have been if the College had started renovations and then decided not to complete the deal because of structural problems. This ties into a second story:

Consent to Enter, Permission to Access Rear Lands Through Site, Multi-Plex Arena Complex and Letter of Intent to PCR Contractors

That mouthful is on the City Agenda for Monday and is tied into the East end arena.

Apparently there is this huge urgency to get started before anything is signed and before the City's due diligence is completed. You see everything must get completed for some reason before the fall of 2008. Oh I know it is for the Spitfires' new hockey season but I do not see them putting their name on the dotted line to share the risk.

Approval is required by Council to allow the City to start work on the Fahri lands on Lauzon for the arena before the land transaction is completed and to enter into a Letter of Intent with PCR to allow them to finalize drawings before the signing of the Full Design/Build Contract and before interim financing of several million dollars is approved by Council.

Now there is this comment put in on the bottom of Page 2 of the Administration Report that if the project is halted, then the City might have full liability for costs such as material costs and architectural fees, the amount of which Administration graciously did not include so as to worry the Councillors.

Why can you imagine if PCR ordered all of the materials worth millions and then the deal fell apart! Oh my! We would have to wait until someone else wanted to buy a 1999 Port Huron designed arena complex to try and get our money back.

I can imagine all kinds of reasons for the project being halted from a lawsuit over legality of the process to environmental to not being able to negotiate a contract. The City is absolutely negotiating from a position of weakness once it has committed to pay for fees and materials as Administration is urging Council to do.

I really have trouble believing that anyone on Council will approve such a request. Why even our Legal Technocrat would never I am sure allow someone to do what is being suggested if he were in private practice in the simplest of house deals never mind a mega-million dollar deal.

Come on, I wonder if this is being done as a pressure play on Councillors to ensure that the arena is built no matter what happens with Project Ice Track. Once Councillors sign off on what is being proposed, then we are stuck. Even if the Purchasing By-law is subsequently invoked or if the deal falls apart, the City would be exposed to damages claims in the millions of dollars.

Forget about the Cleary deal that may fall apart, Councillors. You will be urged to sign off on the arena deal because, of course, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong....

Will Ottawa Be Our Model

Perhaps we might be lucky like Ottawa.

See what happened with their LRT Megaproject in the story below (and check out what they said about design work given how we are handling the arena). Perhaps then we could:
  • kill off DRIC,
  • say good-bye to DRTP,
  • stop threatening our "enemies,"
  • end the billion dollar tunnel foolishness,
  • save Sandwich and Delray,
  • get our enhanced Ambassador Bridge project started with "true" Government oversight as the Senators said
  • have a proper road to the bridge
  • rebuild E C Row with new east end Highway 401 connections and not at Windsor taxpayer expense either so hundreds do not have to be displaced.

Now that would be a very good result for us. De-facto Mayor John Skorobohacz said at HIS strategic Council session said that "the border came up as a major issue. Council agreed to strive to have a border solution completed and agreed upon by all levels of government by the end of the term in 2010." What I have outlined above is the only way that this goal can be accomplished in the de-facto Mayor's next term. Of course, he will have to let Pseudo-Mayor Eddie do a few insignifcant tasks to keep him out of the way such as cutting the ribbon for Caesars Windsor casino.

But the de-facto Mayor needs a new dream too for the masses. One of my reader has a suggestion for him too that you can read about after the Ottawa story since it is tied into it:

  • Dismal track record

    Mega deal. Mega project. Mega embarrassment.

    Ottawa city council lurched to yet another reversal of course yesterday in voting to scrap the north-south light-rail project.

    At the end of the day, councillors may well have made the best decision available to the city, but no one deserved to come out of the chambers claiming the high road on this controversial issue.

    Certainly not rookie Mayor Larry O'Brien, who roared into office on a promise to run our city in a business-like manner, yet barely two weeks into his mandate has twice reversed himself on light rail.

    First he was going to take six months to study the north-south project to ensure the city was getting value for its billion or so dollars. Then he cast the deciding vote on a modified rail line that would dump passengers at Lebreton Flats, instead of downtown, where most want to go.

    And yesterday he voted against the project, in effect killing it and potentially setting the city on a course for a nasty legal battle with the companies that held the contract.

    Our fight has never been against the concept of light rail. In a fast-growing city like ours, we believe an efficient train service can coax drivers out of their cars and on to transit.

    The trouble with LRT as approved by the previous council was that so many details of the contract remained hidden from taxpayers -- the very people who will shoulder the largest part of the cost for the system.

    While there was much tinkering with how the route would proceed in the city's south end, no one seemed able to resolve how a train would blend in with already overtaxed downtown traffic routes.

    Planners wouldn't lay out so much as a new washroom at City Hall without knowing definitively where the toilets and sinks would be located.

    How much more vital is it, then, to get all the details right from the start in the largest construction project on which the city has ever embarked?

    There was much panic in the run-up to last week's vote that if the project weren't approved, the lawsuits would begin, and the city could be out hundreds of millions of dollars without a shovelful of dirt ever being turned.

    Let's hope that with a real business-like approach, that scenario can be avoided and that there's much more to be gained -- by the contractors and the city -- by working out the right deal for the long term.

    It's certainly about time.

My reader wrote and did a quick sketch above:

  • [The de-facto Mayor should] give Council some more headaches coming out of their strategic planning;

    I was just wondering why we don't hear more about the Rail Rationalization study that is ongoing, or how negotiations are going between Transport Canada and CP, CN and Via Rail to get them to agree to use a single common rail corridor between Windsor and Chatham. Where is the Windsor Star and council on this issue?

    This study could potentially do more to transform Windsor than the border study, simply because it is more achievable in the short to medium term. The DRIC will be locked in battles for ages. The RR study could eliminate train crossings (improving congestion), open up possibilities for a new VIA rail station, an intermodal facility, a double stack rail tunnel and more.

    If, for example, the DRTP line and other rail lines become available once they are abandoned, what will the city want to do with them? Rails to trails? Sounds chic. But let's say the region grows to 500,000 or 600,000 in the next 20 years (you never know). What will congestion look like in the city? How will people get around? Will they be biking on these trails? What will be the quality of life features that Eddie Francis can say is his legacy?

    It would require local leaders of great vision to say that we don't need an Light Rail Transit today, but we might 20 years from now. Let's set aside the corridors and do the planning so future generations can enjoy a transportation mode that Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Hamilton, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and other Canadian cities have or are planning on building. This wouldn't be folly, this would be forward thinking and optimistic instead of reactionary and pessimistic.

    Speaking about EC Row yesterday, and how it could tie into the Zalev site, look how an LRT line along the DRTP corridor could connect the University of Windsor with the commecial areas in the south of Windsor, and also intersect an east-west line along EC Row right at the Zalev's site. The mayor does a lot of talking about the Zalev's site, when will he actually do something about it? It is an eyesore, an environmental disaster and sits, quite possibly, in one of the most strategic spots in the city in terms of development and infrastructure."

Now that would be something: a new border infrastructure, a new City infrastucture and with a real business oriented economic development vision. Windsor could be THE city in SW Ontario sooner rather than later! I hope the de-facto Mayor can pull it off!