Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, January 04, 2010

20/10 Memory, Or Not

Happy 2010 to my readers!

Thank goodness there are Bloggers in town, tax watchdogs and WeAct because you did not read this in the Windsor Star.

It may be happier year for some of us, to be direct, if Edgar's political career goes down the drain over the arena and sole sourcing issue. That assumes that we do get an audit and do not have another Dunbar audit-type stall to keep it hidden until after the next municipal election next October.

MFP, Canderel, the 400 Building, Greenlink, the Tunnel deal, the Engineering Building downtown, the urban village, the canal, the transportation hub and now the Arena. Why is it that major Windsor civic projects fail so miserably?

Speaking of 2010, Edgar (aka Eddie) had told me that he had a photographic memory. That is a terrific trait. In an eyechart, 20/10 would be comparable I would think.

Except, dear reader, you may want to consider if you should add on a "0" to the number "10" when considering Edgar's memory these days.

Let's be generous at the start of the year and blame it on the amnesia pandemic at City Hall that is caused by sucking in all of that unscrubbed exhaust that spews out of the City's Tunnel Ventilation Building that clearly must enter City Hall. No wonder we will hear soon that we need a new one on Edgar Francis Square.

Angela Berry is probably smiling broadly and breathing a big sigh of relief since her job has been made so much simpler. The limited "sole sourcing" scope of the arena audit if there is one can be handled quickly now and before the election.

Of course, we have been badly served by the Star once again who refused to do the digging to complete the story but that is why you read the BLOGs isn't it dear, reader. To get the complete facts.

Naturally, Jim Lyons had to be smeared:
  • "Francis said Lyons was against the arena project from the start."

I don't remember that. He just wanted a fair tendering process as the Purchasing By-law requires on major projects.

It is the typical Edgar payback time for someone who dared criticize him. Just like with the pesky environmentalist on the border at the not-held-in-Windsor City Council meeting:

  • "It's a significant amount and they're basically bypassing the tendering bylaw," said Jim Lyons, executive director of the association that represents 380 local companies. "Our question is, 'Wait a minute, whoa, this is a (multimillion-dollar) project...'"

  • ""The Windsor Construction Association accused city council Wednesday of financial irresponsibility and negligence when it awarded the $47.9-million east-end arena project to the Collavino family's PCR firm without tender...

  • "We're concerned about the fact the city didn't follow proper procedure on a $50-million award," said executive director Jim Lyons.

    Lyons said the association's lawyer concluded that council "misused the language in their (purchasing) bylaw."

Of course, Lyons and his members deserve what they got for wimping out and doing nothing to stand up for their rights. Their moaning and groaning in the past still rings hollow:

  • "Lyons said the association's president is polling its board members to see if they want to pursue further action, but he doubts the issue will go as far as the courts. "Our pockets aren't deep enough," he said. "(City officials) wanted this deal to happen and they got language to make it work."

    Lyons said he was inundated with calls and e-mails leading up to council's meeting Wednesday when the deal with the Collavino brothers' PCR firm was approved. Many companies in the construction industry won't publicly condemn the city because they rely on millions of dollars worth of municipal jobs, but they asked the association to intervene on their behalf."

Wealthy contractors being cowards and crying poverty. Oh PUUHHLLLEEZZEE!

Now read Edgar's "sole source" explanation and hoot:

  • "Arena bid process assailed
    Builders' group raps sole-sourcing

    "To this day, nobody in the industry is happy that project was sole-sourced," Lyons said of the arena project. "PCR is a great company. They took an opportunity and ran with it."

    Francis said Lyons was against the arena project from the start and suggested it never would have been constructed unless council sole-sourced the project to PCR.

    "The only group that had plans was the Collavino (PCR) group," the mayor said. "We sole-sourced because these guys were the only one that had drawings.

    "The only option for us was Collavino or do nothing. There wasn't another proposal in front of us."

    "If the city commissioned a tender for drawings that would have added months of delays," Francis said. Council at the time was under pressure to move quickly on an arena decision because Project Ice Track -- a major competing arena proposal -- was being considered in Tecumseh.

    "Jim Lyons wanted to kill another six months (by tendering)," Francis said. "Had we done that a new facility never would have been built. It would have wasted more time, not delivered an arena and we'd be waiting another 30 years."

This is absolute crap! Does Edgar think we are all total idiots who will swallow anything he says.


There were plans. Edgar knew it. The City paid for them a few years before when Edgar was on Council. The architects who drew them up sent Edgar a letter saying they were ready to act to build the new arena. But their letter was dismissed out of hand and never considered seriously. Why not?

Project Ice Track had no chance. The Spits were "onside" with the City before the Project Ice Track people went to Tecumseh if you can remember that far back. It was stated in the Administration report at the time that, if Project Ice Track proposal is selected, then Administration would try to bring Project Ice Track and the Spitfires together to negotiate a deal. Yet at the same time the Report also states that the City and the Spitfires have been talking about the East end arena and

  • “through preliminary discussions with the Windsor Spitfires, a framework for a new agreement with the city has been reached.”

From the Spitfires’ website, we learned that:

  • “Over the past month, the Windsor Spitfires organization has reviewed the Greater Windsor Community Recreation Sports Centre proposal, which we understand may be located in the east side of the City…

    we feel that the Greater Windsor Community Recreation Sports Centre proposal is best suited for both the Spitfire Organization and our community.”

How could any competitor to PCR be successful if the City tied up the main tenant of an arena, the Spitfires, in advance?

But it is the garbage over plans for an arena that concerns me that Edgar may have kept the lenscap on his photographic memory camera. Does Edgar forget that I have a database with old news stories that I can easily find that can deal with his faulty memory. I have already Blogged this:

  • "The city also received a letter last week from the Toronto architectural group NORR, the company that designed and developed plans for the Western Super Anchor site downtown when city council decided it would proceed with an arena on its own.

    The city spent about $3 million for those drawings, which were subsequently shelved after council voted against a go-it-alone project because the price tag came in at $48 million."

Edgar knew there were plans other than those of PCR at the time he tried to justify the sole sourcing.

Mind you, again to be generous, if Edgar could not remember that letter mentioning the plans at the time, then how could we expect him to remember it now. His memory really is faulty isn't it.

But it goes much further back, about 7-8/10ths of a decade ago, when Edgar was a Councillor, even before, when he was well aware of arena plans:

  • "06-03-2003

City OKs final arena plan bill

The city has agreed to a final payment of almost $475,000 as the close-out costs owed to Norr Architects who designed the downtown arena/entertainment centre which council decided not to build after construction tenders came in higher than anticipated.

"We knew there was going to be a final close-out payment and we've been negotiating that payment," said Mayor Mike Hurst. "Norr believed the payment should be based on the low tender bid, our position was that it should be based on the lower estimate provided to us by Ball Construction.

"Ultimately, Norr agreed to accept our position," said Hurst.

  • 01-26-2002

Arena design bill $530,000, rising

The city has paid more than $530,000 to the architect of the western super anchor despite the fact some councillors think a new downtown arena is not affordable.

According to figures provided to The Star, the city has paid Toronto-based architect Norr Limited $530,964 as of Dec. 31. The company is continuing to bill the city up to $185,000 a month to design an arena that council isn't sure should be built.

"We have to proceed assuming it's going ahead," said principal architect Albert Paquette. "When and if they decide to go ahead, we have to be ready."

The architects are working toward completing preliminary design drawings by February, which would eat up 30 per cent of the $2.2 million budgeted for architectural fees.

Paquette is planning to meet the schedule of having final working drawings by May.

"They can put it in a drawer and if they want to wait a year or two, they can do that," Paquette said. "They'll have the drawings to build it. They're buying a design that will be ready to be built."

The Toronto architect noted that this is the city's third attempt at building a new spectator-size arena. "This is the furthest they've ever gotten into the process," he said. "They're going to have to build this eventually -- two years down the road, five years down the road. At which point is it going to be a better value?"

Paquette said it would be a waste of money if council were to pull the plug now.

"It's getting to the point where it's so close that the drawings are complete, it wouldn't make sense to end it now," he said. "It would be a loss of value at this point to stop it midway...."

Councillor Eddie Francis said he's only prepared to support a project that he considers affordable. "If it's not within our means then sorry, tough luck, we'll do it when it is within our means."

Francis won't support a $41-million structure, but said he might vote yes on something more modest.
"You can knock the price down and you can start knocking down the bells and whistles," he said, pointing to landscaping costs of more than $1.7 million. "I am prepared to move on anything that allows us to move within our means..."

Global Spectrum, the Florida-based company selected to operate the proposed arena, has been paid $10,000 a month since June to consult with the architect on design issues and to negotiate a lease agreement with the Windsor Spitfires.

  • 12-22-01

No arena, no Spits, angry owner vows; Riolo frustrated by years of delays

"But everyone should know that work (on plans for the arena) continues on. They have clear instructions to keep working and we are continuing to pay the bills. There has been lots of speculation but the only decision so far is to go forward."

The city is paying up to $185,000 each month to architects of the arena project.

  • 08-31-01

Arena plans set for viewing; Councillors to hear details and costs

City councillors will get their first look at the final plans for the downtown arena project Tuesday.

And they'll also be told how much the long-delayed project is expected to cost.

The city has already struck preliminary deals with the operator, architect and construction adviser for the project, with the caveat that the deals can be scrapped if the project doesn't proceed.

Mayor Mike Hurst was unavailable for comment Thursday, but the project's principal architect said he doesn't anticipate any further delays.

"We believe our design plan is now refined enough according to the directions we've received from council for the project to get the go-ahead," said Albert Paquette, of Toronto-based Norr Architects. "We'll also be presenting construction scheduling timetables and a detailed budget plan."

"We've established the building's footprint and we've established where such things as the space for the Spitfires will be located," Paquette said. "But in terms of details such as colour schemes and finishing touches ... that's always up for refinement as you go.

"It's the same with the final budget," he added. "There are always decisions made along the way that affect both the design and the final cost."

The building will be similar to the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre, which Norr also designed.

  • 08-15-2001

Arena deals offer an out

City council has approved three "preliminary" deals with the operator, architect and construction adviser for the downtown arena project, with a caveat that they can be scrapped if the project doesn't proceed.

"They're limited deals," Chuck Wills, the city's chief administrative officer, said. "There is language in it that ensures if council decides not to proceed ... then there are clauses to stop" the process.

The architectural firm of Norr Ltd., which won the contract to design the building, has settled on a deal Wills describes as a "standard" agreement. The Toronto firm's fee will be based on the final construction costs of the arena. But if the project doesn't proceed, Norr will be paid for its time and materials.

  • 05-31-2001

Florida firm to manage arena; TO architects to design it

A Florida management team and a Toronto architectural firm have won the short-list sweepstakes to be recommended to City Council to design and run the proposed Western Superanchor Arena.

Chuck Wills, city chief administrative officer, said Wednesday the Tampa firm of Global Spectrum is proposed to operate the multi-use facility when it opens in 2002. The NORR Group of Architects of Toronto is suggested to design the arena. Council will be presented with a short-list of five construction companies.

"All companies short-listed offered considerable strengths and talents," said Wills. "It was a question of finding a fit for Windsor..."

Wills said the NORR group "brought understanding of the family orientation" council sought in the facility. He noted preliminary plans include a leisure ice surface.

NORR spokesman Albert Paquette was pleased the firm has the opportunity to "put a new face on Windsor." He said the building would compliment the urban design and waterfront.

  • 04-28-2001

Five make arena short list

The city released on Friday a short-list of candidates to design and operate Windsor's proposed new arena...

The architectural firms -- all from Toronto -- are: Brisbin, Brook Beynon; Norr Limited; Parkin; Zawadski Armin Stevens.

Senior city staff headed by chief administrative officer Chuck Wills spent the week reviewing the submissions of five operators and seven architects. Using an evaluation system that graded the proponents on their experience and financial capacity, the group was able to unanimously agree on the short-listed candidates."

It might take Ms. Berry an hour or two to write a report that blows a giant hole into the sole source justification based on Edgar's facts never mind the legal position I pointed out in previous BLOGs:

Oh well, right before the election, we can:

  • watch the Audit Committee not call for a public inquiry just like they did not do with the 400 Building audit

  • read Annie's next column about pizza so she can ignore the story as she did with the Lewenza Ward meeting revelations on the CUPE strike

  • see mini-Gord tell us that it is "much ado about nothing. Nobody stole anything, and nobody screwed up any aspect of the project. So what's the big deal?" Just as he has done by refusing to name the corrupt City Councillor.

As for Gord, heck, promises, shromises. He will still tell us that

  • "we need four more years from this guy."