Last night, in an 8-3 vote, the City of Sault Ste. Marie Council supported spending an additional $1.4 million in the Downtown Plaza area.
This time, the new allocation aims to compensate for the fact that the federal government refused this amount in the funding requested for the relocation of the Mill Market.
Three councilors were concerned about the amount spent as well as other aspects of the project and voted against additional funding. These advisers were Matt Shoemaker, Matt Scott and Marchi Bruni.
Matt Shoemaker was most passionate about the amount of money spent. In a nearly two-minute address to Council after his motion to postpone was defeated, he noted what others have already said publicly. That there seems to be no limit to spending on this project.
We have chosen to publish his comments, as well as those of the Mayor in their entirety. More can be seen in the 45 minute video below:
“When the plaza proposal came to us, I believe it was August 2019. The amount requested from the City was $2.2 million. When we approved the construction of the plaza a few years ago meetings, the amount the city was paying was about $7.9 million out of an $8.9 million project, according to my rough numbers, and now we’re being asked to add an additional $1.5 million to the type of global project.
So the plaza and surrounding area is now pushing $11 million, the city’s contribution is about $9 million. And I guess, where does it end? How much money is this Council prepared to invest in this project?
I heard the $1.5 million, Mr. Mayor, is something you’re willing to pursue. [with]. Without funding, you know, if the City has to fend for itself. So obviously the rest of the Council agrees with that as well.
I mean, there’s another motion we could make here, which is why don’t we just eliminate a cost limit for this project? Because it seems to me, [that] the Council is ready to spend any sum of money for this project which is going to present itself.
So we are at 11 million, why not 20? Why not 30? Why not do like Aurora and spend 60 million?
Okay, well, we either need other sources of government funding or put a cap on this project, and there’s no cap, and it’s a disappearing amount. Because if we spend five or 10, or 15 or 20, it seems that there is not too much for this Council to approve.
So, I mean, it just shows a willingness to proceed with this project in the face of denials from higher levels of government, [and] lack of public support for my opinion. And I have long ceased to support the project. And I just think it’s absurd that we keep raising the spending cap so drastically.
Mayor Provenzano –
Good then [I’m] I’m just going to respond to three of Councilor Shoemaker’s comments and then we’ll call the vote on that.
Councilor Shoemaker, I understand why you have a habit of lumping all dollars into municipal dollars and I recognize that the federal government gave us funds that we could use for things that are not public squares projects.
But part of the $9 million you’re talking about is federal funds that we received from the federal government. So the specific municipal contribution, I would say, is not consistent with the way you have represented it.
I think it’s important to recognize that you made a comment about the lack of public support. I see no problem with that being your gauge. It’s not my gauge.
A number of business personalities contacted me and told me they hoped the place would move forward. We heard that actually at one of the chamber events where a business leader pointed out that there was a miscommunication because he didn’t think we were doing a good enough job of sell the value of it, they thought it was a good project.
Residents told me the same thing. I was in Drake Park, where my family lives, and a young family was there and the mother walked up to me and said, I really hope this works out, because that would be a nice place to bring kids on a Saturday, now that’s my gauge.
But either way, whether there’s public support for something or there’s no public support for something, it’s up to us, the 11 of us, to decide whether we’re going to forward, regardless of that and in a representative democracy, we have to make that decision.
We have to make decisions based on the information given to us and based on a plan that we are moving forward with and I think that decision is consistent with the plan that we have been trying to move forward with the front.
Last two comments, I don’t think there is any basis to say we would spend money on this. I think you know me well enough that I have my limits and I made that very clear with the twin pad (McMeekan). I wasn’t going to review what we finally decided to do, despite that we added what I think was the same amount of money to build a walking track. So, you know, we added over a million, maybe 1.4 million and I don’t remember it was close to what we’re adding here to build a walking track.
So in the context of other things we’re doing, I think it’s a reasonable investment and I really think, for me, that the middle market is essential to the whole class project.
So there is a limit and I would tell you there is no reason to say that any of us would spend any amount of money to make that happen.
I think it’s a good project, I think the community will like it and appreciate it when it’s finished, and I think it complements the rest of the work we’re doing.
I am therefore in favor of its progress. And if we are able to gather more resources, in the meantime, it will lessen the burden on us and we will have resources to put elsewhere.
But I think the fact that we have access to these resources is proof that we’re managing things quite carefully here, and that we have to, as my colleagues have pointed out, make investments in ourselves in our own community if we want other parties to make investments in our community.
Stick with SaultOnline as we continue to bring you more information regarding the municipal allocation of taxpayer dollars.