Revitalization

Council: No Reconsideration of City Hall Plan

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 10, 2008

Once again, City Council has voted not to refuse a course of action, but to refuse to consider its options.

This time, Council voted not to ask staff to look into the possibility of keeping city employees at Hamilton City Centre rather than completing the City Hall renovations.

The idea, suggested by Councillor Bob Bratina, might save the city tens of millions of dollars while simultaneously reinvigorating a failed urban mall and encouraging city staff to discover and explore the downtown.

His opponents claimed it was too late for Council to change its mind and disputed the $150,000 cost to staff of preparing a report that could assess the full cost of Bratina's recommendation.

Bratina's argument that the global economic crisis requires Council to rethink big-ticket decisions like the City Hall renovation fell on deaf ears. Councillor Brad Clark argued, "We should be able to defend our decision as a council." Councillor Maria Pearson echoed this, saying, "Decisions have been made ... Lets' move on."

Yet as John Maynard Keynes famously said: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Bob Bratina (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2008 at 17:50:16

None of my contentions were refuted by staff. Although Councillor Ferguson claimed on radio today that my numbers did not include financing costs, in fact they did, as attested to by Joe Rinaldo in the discussion at Committee. The total amount that would be paid out over 20 years under the City Centre proposal, interest included, would be $50 million dollars. The total amount for the current strategy over 20 years would be about $170 million dollars, assuming that City Hall renovation costs don't rise. That leaves a difference of $120 million, and if penalties were as high as $20 million, guess how much would still be saved? Councillor Clark originally supported the motion, but backed out with the excuse that we would incur costs to assess the City Centre property, perhaps $150,000 dollars. I asked if we did this with purchase of the Lister Block. Here is staff's answer. "Section 9 k)of the agreement provides the following: 'Vendor shall submit to Purchaser a structural assessment report on the Lister Block Building prepared by a licensed structural engineer, hired by the Vendor'......." In other words LIUNA paid.

Councillor Clark also suggested we would have to do a geotechnical study of the ground beneath the City Centre. This not done with Lister, although it is generally believed that an aquifer or underground river lies beneath that property which may inhibit the size of commercial buildings that were proposed in conjuntion with the Lister Block.

In the face of the world economy, would we make the same decision today for City accomodation? Why wouldn't we just put the projects on hold for a year to get a better understanding of what we are facing financially for the City, and stay where we are? And what are the priorities for the City as of today? Here's a list of our big ticket items. Office space, McMaster Faculty of Family Medicine, Water and Sewer infrastructure to support new employment lands, LRT. We can't afford them all, and we don't have any room for unanticipated situations. There would be no extra financing required to just sit tight, but Council was completely unwilling, except for 4 of us, to even consider it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2008 at 18:12:46

the news just keep getting better in the Hammer. I just heard that the fundraising effort for city hall limestone fell short and concrete is now being ordered. You can be sure that our new city manager is a-ok with more gobs of concrete covering the city.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2008 at 20:31:57

Totally unfair Jason. No need to be taking shots at Chris Murray before he even starts. With respect to the Red Hill he simply successfully implemented City Council's direction. That was his role. If he didn't do it then somebody else whould have. He is a brillant individual with an environmental conscience and I will sleep easily at night now knowing he is at the helm.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2008 at 22:19:30

true. My bad. I'll give him a fair shot and hope that he can do a great job.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2008 at 10:09:41

Great stuff, I'm hoping for great things. I like the fact that it isn't one of the present General Manager dinosaurs that was chosen.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2008 at 11:29:17

yea, you've got a good point there. My impression of Murray actually went up today when reading how some of the old boys club weren't too impressed with him being chosen. Here's hoping he doesn't become one of them.

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By Charles111 (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2008 at 23:10:30

I have met and talked to Chris Murray many times and I am extremely happy he has the job. He is a common sense type of guy who works methodically to get the right things done.

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