Since publishing a previous article, ‘Burned Down Strip Club: City Staff say $60,000 but Mayor talks $350,000 with owner‘ back in November of 2020, SaultOnline has continued our research after filing an Freedom of Information (FOI) request to map out a timeline of what exactly went down in regards to the city purchasing 89 Hudson Street, previously the location of Studio 10.
After speaking with multiple sources, new information has come to light which shows the previous owner of the property, Andre Trahan, was not only negotiating with Mayor Provenzano and the city for the sale/purchase, but contacted a local private investor/businessman who he thought may be interested as well.
End of December 2018
- According to a former employee, Andre Trahan fires multiple long term employees and hires new ones. The Bar remains open.
Feb 11, 2019
- Studio 10 burns down with loss of life – SaultOnline is in the process of looking into this fire closer.
March 14, 2019
- Andre Trahan officially reaches out to Karen Fields, Sault Ste. Marie City Solicitor offering 89 Hudson to the city.
- Fields asks City Supervisor of Legal Services, Orsilina Naccarato to circulate the offer to city departments.
March 21, 2019
- There is no interest in the property from City Staff according to an email exchange between Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer Shelley Schell and City Solicitor Karen Fields.
- It is determined there are no funds available to purchase the property. The 2020 budget fixed that, but more on this soon.
April 22, 2019
- Andre Trahan reaches out to city staff to see how long the process takes and asks if city council is part of the process yet.
April 30, 2019
- City Solicitor Karen Fields responds to Trahan advising that council would be discussing the matter in a closed door meeting on May 6, 2019.
Sometime before May 2, 2019
- Mayor Provenzano and Andre Trahan talk price. According to Trahan, he mentioned $350,000 to Provenzano (the price it eventually sold for) and wanted to relocate the Adult Entertainment licence to 196 James Street, the former Al’s Pub.
May 6, 2019
- The matter is brought forth to City Council in a closed door meeting to receive direction as per City Solicitor Kathy Fields’ e-mail dated April 30, 2019.
May 7, 2019
- Starting with City Solicitor Karen Fields, there is a significant number of e-mails between departments asking for a valuation on the 89 Hudson property.
- $61,000 is determined to be the assessed value by City Staff.
May 27, 2019
- Trahan debates the city’s valuation of ~$60,000 which he was informed of during a phone conversation with City Solicitor Karen Fields.
- Trahan sends an email to Karen Fields stating, “After getting off the phone, I was thinking that the city’s view on the value doesn’t make sense to me. The city would have been willing to purchase the property with a building on it for $335,000 and then spend $250,000 to tear it down. That’s a total of $485,000, but the city is only willing to purchase the empty lot for $60,000. I had to pay to have the building torn down.”
- SaultOnline is unsure how he came to the valuations above as he apparently only approached the city this time after the fire.
- Trahan is corrected by Fields about the conversation, $335,000 was apparently his answer to what he wanted from the city.
- Trahan is told he would not be able to transfer his Adult Entertainment license and there was no other zoned property in the city zoned for Adult Entertainment. (Note: This statement was not correct as SaultOnline learned of one other property on Great Northern Road which still is zoned for Adult Entertainment, Trahan was not told this.)
Spring/Summer of 2019
- Andre Trahan reaches out to Tony Porco, owner of the Machine Shop, to determine whether he had any interest in acquiring the property.
- Porco expresses interest in the property as it would provide better access and additional parking for the neighbouring Machine Shop, Rink and Train Station. He verbally offers Trahan “around $160,000”.
- Porco states that Trahan told him he already had an offer for $350,000. Porco advises Trahan that he couldn’t justify spending that amount on a vacant lot and no further conversation was had.
December 2019 – City Budget
- A line item which saw a significant spike in the 2020 budget was called “Reserve Other”.
- In 2018 it had a projected budget of $110,000 decreasing to $100,000 for the years of 2019-2022.
- In 2019 it had a revised budget of $128,000 going down to $100,000 for the years 2020-2023.
- In the year 2020 the this line item was increased to $586,250 with a decrease to $130,000 for the years 2021-2024.
- In 2021 the line item has gone back down to $300,000 for this year and then $131,310 for 2022-2025.
May 14, 2020
- Mayor Provenzano asks CAO Malcolm White for the contact information for Andre Trahan (he’s had this information since before May 2019)
June 11, 2020
- Mayor Provenzano requests contact information for Trahan from City Solicitor Karen Fields, carbon copied to CAO Malcolm White.
July 22, 2020
- Council gives staff direction to purchase the property known as 89 Hudson Street.
August 6, 2020
- CAO Malcolm White asks City Solicitor Karen Fields (with a smiley faced emoji) “Sorry to ask – Mayor was asking if the offer had been conveyed yet”.
- Karen Fields sends an e-mail to Jeffery King, another city solicitor stating, “There is some pressure to get this out ASAP today, however, the offer must be conditional upon us getting approval by Council which is anticipated to be given, (They have already said yes in closed)”
September 14, 2020
- Mayor takes responsibility for bringing this purchase to the city’s attention during the council meeting.
“The property owner reached out to the city. And it was certainly something that I could, I’m comfortable taking some responsibility for, and really frankly asking Council for direction to engage in this and working with staff on it,” said Provenzano during the meeting, “any questions as to kind of the motivation or what staff’s plans are, you know, probably should be directed to me because it wasn’t really something that staff was motivated by or had any plans for. It was an opportunity that came to city council to buy a piece of property and remove the zoning on that piece of property. So for the next 50 years, when you drive over a bridge, the first thing that you see is not a strip bar.”
October 14, 2020
- SaultOnline Reporter Dan Gray is advised by City of Sault Ste Marie Communications Manager Tessa Vecchio all internal communications, electronic communications with the mayor from Staff, councillors and owner of the land would have to be obtained by submitting an FOI.
October 16, 2020
- An FOI is submitted to City of Sault Ste. Marie. ‘$400K for STRIP CLUB property: Why a Freedom of Information request? What is Mayor Provenzano hiding?’
November 9, 2020
- The Integrity commissioner releases a preliminary report which finds no fault on behalf of the Mayor in the dealings regarding the Hudson Street Property, “Mayor Provenzano advised… that information he discussed with the owner of 89 Hudson Street was always with the knowledge and mandate of council.”
- The timeline to this point may prove otherwise. It was brought to Council’s attention on May 6, 2019. Mayor Provenzano had discussions with Trahan before May 2, 2019.
November 16, 2020
- The FOI is returned to SaultOnline. It was missing information we asked for and to this day has not been provided.
On March 8, 2021
- The Ontario Ombudsman finds no violation of the Municipal Act occurred during the July 2020 closed door session. However, he leaves instructions with City of Sault Ste. Marie recommending that the Mayor and Council be more transparent with reasons for moving matters behind closed doors.
“I encourage the City of Sault Ste. Marie to ensure its resolutions to close a meeting maximize the information provided to the public regarding the matter to be discussed, without undermining the reason for closing the meeting.”
- Porco has been offered use of the property by the City.
A private local investor/business expressed interest in the property and was willing to pay $160,000, considerably more than the assessed value of $61,000. This investor/business was not willing to bid against the city after learning from Trahan of the offer for $350,000 on the 89 Hudson Street property.
SaultOnline has again requested a date as to when the final Integrity Commissioner’s report will be presented to council for approval in regards to Mayor Provenzano’s actions in this matter.
If it took 18 months for residents of the city of Sault Ste. Marie to learn about this transaction, what other matters are being discussed behind closed doors? Will the community have a say in large transactions such as this?
Stay with SaultOnline as we continue to learn more information on this matter and others affecting taxpayers.