The money shell game at city hall is in full effect again, this time with the Downtown Plaza project being the target of all the extra taxpayer dollars.
You see, the Economic Development Corporation, an arms length organization which receives funding from Sault Ste. Marie, has decided to donate $250,000 to the plaza. The EDC is a taxpayer funded arm of city hall where last year taxpayers were on the hook for over $1.2 million of the EDC’s budget. This year, that number is over $700,000, of which now we are “donating” $250,000 to the plaza project.
Next, we have Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, with a donation of $250,000. Tourism received over $500,000 during this years budget, so over half of it has gone back into a project which isn’t really intended for tourism.
Both the EDC and Tourism Sault Ste. Marie are located inside City Hall at 99 Foster Drive.
So the city will be redirecting $500,000 of taxpayer monies meant to attract businesses and tourists to Sault Ste. Marie to ensure the Downtown project moves ahead despite considerable opposition from the Community. A project which has failed to gain support, even on their own social media page. Less than 10 out of the 136 comments made on the city’s Facebook page announcing the fundraiser for the plaza were in support of the city still going forward.
Victor St. Pierre likes the concept, but thinks timing is off.
“This is an awesome idea but until we do something about the opioid crisis these kind of things won’t work because a high percentage of drug users live or hang around the downtown core and will bother citizens and tourists trying to enjoy the facility,” he commented on the city’s page.
“Our downtown at one time was bustling and prosperous. But unless people have been living in seclusion, take a stroll any evening. Junkies on every corner, ally ways great for doing drug deals,” said Darlene Mew, another poster on the city’s page. “Park sometime and just watch the demographics that patrol the streets any time but especially after 7pm. But I’m sure the park will be utilized to full capacity by our City Councilors and extended families. It may be an educational experience for those who live in Oz.”
Without the $500,000 “donated” to the city by city funded organizations, the target of $600,000 fundraising would most likely would not have met its goal.
With Councillor Hollingsworth’s family business, Soo Mill, donating $50,000 there have been public calls questioning whether she should even be allowed to vote Monday as it may be a conflict of interest.
Add to this, Council intends to spend money from future councils in order to get this project done. They are using $500,000 from the 2022 and 2023 Future Community Growth Initiative line in the budget. They will then spend $472,000 from the same line of the budget in 2024, a full 2+ years past their current mandate.
Most likely the final vote will be held Monday, which you will be able to watch it live on SaultOnline/ONNtv and our Facebook Page. If it passes, the only way it could come back one more time is if the results of the RFP ends up way higher than the projected budget.
Stay with SaultOnline/ONNtv as we continue to cover more aspects of this multi-million dollar legacy project.