Transparency includes posting information online — but it has to go beyond that.
To me, transparency is about providing full information, and providing it in a format that is easy to access and read. That means doing something more than posting bits of information on the City website and leaving it for you to pull it all together, if you can find it.
And without REAL transparency — that is, presenting information completely, presenting it in a way that is easy to find and understand, there is no REAL accountability. It’s not hard to do better, and you’re paying for it with your taxes.
So, when City Hall falls short, it does raise questions and that’s valid. And when it engages in spin, when it goes into spin-overdrive, it’s a disservice to the whole organization, along with the disservice it represents to each of us as citizens.
Low transparency and spin doesn’t do anything to promote an example of respect with those that City Hall engages, be it City staff, citizens, would-be collaborators, those we do business with, those who want to invest here — which is at the core of the problems at City Hall.
There needs to be an example of respect and council has a unique role to play in this regard. It sets the example for the entire organization.
Respect was very much lacking when City Hall told us not to worry about how the Urbacon costs would be covered, that they’ll just come out of the City’s reserves. Only, those reserves are our reserves. We all did what we needed to do to pay into those reserves through our taxes.
I knew change was needed at City Hall, but wow, that was revealing.
Which is to say, change must happen at City Hall and it must begin with council. Change requires a change on who is sitting around the horseshoe. Please vote for better government, please vote for Craig Chamberlain.
Guelph City Council put this project into motion by accepting the recommendation to proceed with City of Guelph Contract No. 06-043 at a Special Meeting of City Council on June 26th, 2006 (click here to access it).
And now, incredibly, some would have you think it’s all yesterday’s news, it’s a closed matter, and it’s time for you to just move on already. Which suggests THAT certainly is not the case for you!
The fact of the matter is we now have about a multi-million dollar hole in the coffers we all paid into — we still have THAT. And actually, it’s not over yet, as we are waiting on the Aviva settlement.
And let’s not kid ourselves, Urbacon happened within a culture at City Hall. It didn’t happen in isolation of it.
So, yes, without a change towards more accountability and respect, without a better example of accountability and transparency by council, we’ll see more misadventures with the public’s tax dollars.
You can bank your tax dollars on it.
The following is an example of this citizen simply wanting more transparency regarding the costs associated with the Urbacon fiasco. It’s incomplete, and it will be inaccurate, which is part of my point (but never my intention). Citizens don’t have a simple, straight-forward list of expenses from City Hall, which undermines the public trust.
City Hall has the means and the responsibility to present information in a clear manner and not leave it to citizens to have to fish around for it. They deserve nothing less for their taxes and the Ward 3 incumbents should have demanded it.
Urbacon-related Costs (Original Project Total: $50,749,700)
Demolition of Memorial Gardens: $2,063,700
Contract for City Hall: $32,498,000 (Includes underground parking component)
Contract for Courthouse: $9,502,000
Architect’s fees for City Hall: $1,963,000
Architect’s fees for Courthouse: $703,000
Other: City Hall: $1,636,000 (Fees, permits, fixtures)
Other: Courthouse: $284,000 (Fees, permits, fixtures)
Contingency: City Hall: $1,624,900
Contingency: Courthouse: $475,100
Financing/ Borrowing Costs ?
City staff time/ City resources on project ?
City staff time dealing with Lien claims ?
City Legal: Trial preparations ?
City staff time/ City resources: trial prep ?
City Legal: Trial ?
City staff time: Trial ?
Expert witnesses at trial ? (Included in outside legal expenses)
City Legal post-trial ?
City staff post-trial ?
City Legal, trying to change 2nd trial date ?
City Legal, reviewing settlement ?
City staff time, reviewing settlement ?
Additional leasing costs due to delays $481,119
Outside Legal costs: $2,233,982 (This is what we are told in terms of our legal costs)
Settlement costs: $5,855,264 (We settled for $6.635M with Urbacon, but let’s just use this number)
Aviva Settlement Costs ? TBD
Additional completion costs $8,346,261 ??? Additions, change orders, change of contractor…
Background email correspondence with City staff
Dear Mr. Chamberlain,
Thank you for your e-mail. I am happy to clarify project costs for the City Hall and POA Courthouse project.
You are correct that the contract cost for the project totalled $42 million.
This is different from the project construction cost, which includes design, architect, and engineering fees as well as other costs. The approved budget for the project was $54.8 million ($42 million for City Hall and $12.8 million for the courthouse). Federal and provincial grants and other funding increased the total funding available to $56,711,399. The total project expenses prior to the litigation and settlement were $56,968,414, which means that prior to the litigation the project had a deficit of $257,015.
The additional leasing costs incurred during the delays totaled $481,119. On the other hand, the delay in moving into the building would have resulted in some operating savings (for example, utilities and cleaning costs), so the net additional operating cost to the City would be lower.
You are correct that legal costs do not include City staff time; they include the City’s total outside legal fees, expert reports, expert witnesses and other witness fees.
The settlement cost is $6.635 million as reported. But the actual net cost to the City is $5,855,264; this is because funds remain of a holdback the City already paid into court to satisfy subtrade lien claims. The subtrade claims will be satisfied from the settlement funds and so the City will receive the balance in the court account. The City will also receive input tax credits.
It is this $5,855,264 that, when added to the $2,233,982 in legal costs and the original $257,015 deficit, brings us to the total overage of $8,346,261 that was publicly reported.
Thank you for writing to clarify this information. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Good Afternoon Craig,
Further information for you regarding costs arising from the City Hall move.
1. With regard to our relationship with landlords: Was the City sued by the landlords as part of the move? No, we were not sued by the landlords. There is one outstanding matter related to leasehold improvements but it is not related to the Urbacon litigation.
2. With regard to the County: When the decision was made to terminate the builder, was the County informed of this action ahead of it, was there consultation on this move? When and how did it become aware of it? From memory the County had @$5.5M in it for the courthouse. We are not aware of the nature of communications between the County and City during this period as they related to Urbacon; the Provincial Courthouse project was the next phase of the project and was not scheduled to commence until after the building was commissioned, employees were relocated.
3. With regard to extra moving costs.
The lump sum of $481,119 include invoices for moving. A review of the files renders two entries totalling $ 9900 (move from 42 Wyndham and 98 MacDonell) plus extra staff time of $1600. I have rounded these sums up.