Plaza to come to head with one final $1.6 million ask by staff

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From report to Council dated September 27, 2021

Tonight, City Council will be asked to make a final decision on the Downtown Plaza Project and it’s estimated operating budget.

They are being asked to approve an additional $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars originating from the Canada Community Building Fund to bring the total city taxpayer funded contribution to 82% of the project.

A line from the motion reads:

“…approve the plaza development with a total project cost of $8,447,068 with a total City contribution of up to $6,993,068 and expected annual operating costs of $265,000.”

Multiple Councillors have previously stated that this would be a deal-breaker and the mayor is also on record as understanding those Councillors’ positions. On previous projects, including the Twin-Pad replacement, Provenzano has noted that he wouldn’t support something if more taxpayer dollars were needed.

Another concern for the public and Councillors has been the security of the new facility. Multiple Councillors have indicated that, throughout the process of design of the plaza, it was top of mind. There were several conversations around specific elements of the design which would discourage illegal activity.

However, the reality of the location, across from a Methadone clinic and in an area known for high incidence of criminal activity, will likely require a 24/7 presence in order to deter any serious issues from arising.  In this moment, there is no evidence one way or the other that this has been factored into the operating costs. 

In speaking with a number of local security users and providers, that service wouldn’t come cheap.

A minimum of one guard at an estimated cost to the city of $20/hr (wage, uniform, overhead, company fee etc.) for 24/7 coverage of the plaza would be $175,000 dollars/annually. Considering the location, two guards if required would run the city $350,000 per year.

So, the question is, how can the plaza be secured?  Is it feasible to opt for two guards overnight and city staff during the day?

Alternatively, could they hire two police officers per shift specifically to do downtown patrols?  Officers who would be dedicated completely to the plaza and surrounding area?

Two officers, in this capacity, at a salary of $80,000 a year would work out to $160,000/year. If the police could ensure these patrols would never leave the downtown area, this could be an option.

On top of these projected costs, maintenance to the ice rink must also be considered and this would comprise, at minimum, two part-time staff just for running the Zamboni and overall ice maintenance. These costs are estimated at around $60,000 per year.

If the City wants to run events every weekend at the Plaza, which is the goal, an Events Manager specifically for the Plaza would probably end up being required at some point down the road.

The overall maintenance of the building, water and power consumption will also need to be factored into the operating budget.

With all of that figured in, can the city ensure taxpayers that the cost will not be significantly higher than the estimate?

With so much public scrutiny and overall non-support for the project, if the vote passes tonight, the only other chance council would have to decline the project would be if the request for proposal (RFP) to build it came in over the $8.4 million dollar budget. 

You can watch the vote live tonight, at Saultonline/ONNTV, or on our Facebook Page. We will also be bringing you updates throughout the evening.

13 COMMENTS

  1. ok question?? Are we trying to make a smaller type of Nathan Phillips Square like in Toronto?? If so kudo’s, nice to see some initiative to bring the Soo into the 21st Century and be the city it is supposed to be. Now lets get the Northland bus terminal relocated downtown. Cmon bring on the people and the tourist dollars……….

  2. I have to say what many others are thinking. Someone is having their pockets lined.

    We have a very serious issue with healthcare here. There is a lack of specialists in all areas. Wait times are ridiculous.

    Roads are in rough shape. In fact, Queen Street is being overlooked for this “pet” project.

    Crime is running rampant especially in the areas around the site for this project.

  3. Pretty sad…one would say anything about any Methadone Clinic—-as these people are clean…tested….and then given their Methadone to HELP them stay clean.
    Quit stereotyping……

  4. I think money could be better spent in updating one of the Plaza’s we have now and get some bussiness for shopping. We have nothing here, just seems more productive having money spent in the community, producing tax revenue and job creation. Stop wasting my tax dollars that I bust myself for every day and put it to a more beneficial use.

  5. It can’t be to support tourism, the Agawa Tour Train left today with no-one from the cities tourism department to see them off. I’d give the money to the Police Department and the Hospital , we don’t need another place for the homeless and drug addicts to go.

  6. I support this project.

    Also, Sault Online’s argument that a methadone clinic in vicinity would require a 24×7 security service. Would like to see the studies linking methadone clinic locations and crime outside of operating hours of such a place.. These baseless arguments against the project really question the integrity of the journalism to the point that some of these ‘news’ articles would be better off classified as editorial / opinion pieces.

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