To Tbnewswatch Editor
Council on Monday approved a report which supports relocation of the Thunder?Bay Art Gallery at a waterfront site near the public boat launch.
The report also advises TBAG to approach city for funding, and recommends future consideration of financial support to include site services, parking, increase in present annual operating subsidy of $242,734, a capital contribution, and land use agreement for the waterfront property. Currently, I understand they pay $2 annually in rent to Confederation College.
I suggest it is premature to approve this waterfront location for the Art Gallery without a broader community consultation on what citizens would like to see in Phase 2 of the waterfront development, and what other priorities our city should have for infrastructure spending.
It has now been decided that a new marina will not be part of Phase 2, due to artifacts in the harbour area. The retrofits to the existing marina were to be “temporary” until a new marina was built. Has this situation been addressed on a permanent basis?
The minutes of the May waterfront development committee meeting mention a briefing document, which would include administration’s plans and priorities for Phase 2. Many public documents exist which detail the components of Phase 2. They included a new marina, building, and related services. Should the public not have input into what they want for Phase 2 before administration prepares a report?
Much public land has been sold or leased for the two condos and hotel, and their requirements for parking. Citizens are regularly refused entrance to the park on Wednesdays, which I fear is only going to get worse.
The present parking in front of the CN station is only temporary as that spot is to be partially developed into a market building. As well, the area where the colourful lawn-chairs sit is set aside as “option lands” for future private development.
There is really not much space left for public use in the redeveloped Prince Arthur’s Landing. Whatever else happens, there needs to be something that will cater more to the general public (and taxpayer), not private groups. As was stated by members of the Marina Advisory Committee who did a deputation relating to loss of access to the marina for boaters, “a marina needs to be on the water, an art gallery does not.”
The financial needs for a new art gallery also present concerns to a city which is underfunding its infrastructure by $15 million per year, according to published reports.
According to the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, every $1 spent on road maintenance at the seven to eight-year mark of service life will eliminate or delay spending $6 to $10 on rehabilitation or reconstruction at about the 17-year mark.
So that $15 million deficit figure only grows as we leave needed repairs for future budgets.
The gallery is suggesting a 10 to 15 per cent contribution from the city, of an estimated $25 million cost in 2013 dollars, not 2017 dollars when the project is proposed to be built.
But that $25 million is an estimate, accurate within 30 per cent, with all other sources of revenue listed as potential. Our city share could dramatically increase; look at Waterfront Phase 1 which came in far higher than original estimates.
Considering our other infrastructure needs in Thunder Bay, is a new art gallery really a priority at this time? It is my understanding that we spend more on interest on our debt than we do on roads!
The 2011 citizen satisfaction survey quote below gives some insights as to what our Citizens see as a priority.
“Residents continue to report that street and roadside maintenance are not meeting their expectations and are a key area for improvement. 2011 results also show higher levels of concern on stormwater drainage and recreation programs for youth. “
And this is prior to the flood of 2012.
The $35 million of government money spent at the waterfront, much of it to create and service land to sell for private development, did nothing to improve the condition of infrastructure elsewhere in the city.
That same amount spent elsewhere would have provided the same benefit in jobs created.
It is time to look at the real needs of our city, and what citizens, not an outside consultant, want to see at our waterfront and as infrastructure priorities in our city.