DCN ARCHIVES

April 13, 2007

Infrastructure

P3 opposition spreads to Cornwall

CORNWALL

In the same week when the P3 model has come under attack for driving up construction costs on a North Bay hospital, opposition to the alternative financing arrangement may stall construction of a multi-pad arena/field house complex in Cornwall.

City council approved a motion that moves the complex to the Request for Qualification (RFQ) stage, but an optimistic timeline for development could be derailed.

According to a report prepared by Fernand Hamelin, Manager, Special Projects for the City of Cornwall on behalf of the Future Arena Committee, a short list of bidders is expected by May 7 with council approval of qualified bidders, site resolution, council approval of an RFP and issuance of an RFP by June 7.

The successful bidder is to be chosen by Sept. 7, with a final decision and approval of funding by Oct. 7 and the actual construction start by Nov. 7.

“In the last year alone, there were four communities that rejected the P3 option,” said councilor Elaine MacDonald.

“They were St. Catharines, Kingston, Windsor and Niagara Falls.

“The issue of the P3 is the one that means the most to me. A lot of authorities have expressed concerns about claims that P3s are cheaper than public ownership: the Auditor General of Ontario, James McCarter, the Auditor General of Nova Scotia, Jacques Lapointe, and Auditor General of New Brunswick, Mike Ferguson.

“Somewhere in this report it says we are looking for the best service at an affordable price. Well, we have some pretty authoritative economists that say a P3 isn’t a cheaper option.”

Councillor Glen Grant, chair of the future arena committee, expressed his frustration with an unwillingness by some councillors to accept that to issue an RFQ was not a commitment to a P3 model, but rather just another step in the information gathering process.

“We have no misconception; we don’t fully understand what P3 is and that’s why we hired a consultant,” said Grant. “It’s to get that information to do what is best for the residents of this community.

“If we don’t do that, we are doing an injustice to them. We need this information to do the comparison, to come back and say, ‘This is what this is going to cost,’ and ‘This is what this is going to cost.’ How do you want to proceed? And if you don’t have that information how are you going to make an intelligent decision?”

Cornwall CAO Paul Fitzpatrick tried to bring the issue back into focus.

“I want to stress to council we are not asking for any decisions on what we’re going to build, where we are going to build it or how we are going to pay for it,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re going out to kick the tires in the private sector to see who may want to work with us in a private-public partnership. It’s one of the things we have to do to see what’s possible in terms of a needed, new multi-pad facility in our community.”

Cornwall currently is served by three ice surfaces in three separate facilities, the newest of which was completed in 1976. One, and possibly two of the older facilities are being considered for demolition due to the high cost of maintenance and repair.

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