More sole-sourcing and other Lansdowne news
This Wednesday, Ottawa City Council will vote on whether to reduce the amount of oversight on Lansdowne's redevelopment. The proposal is that from now on the City Manager will be able to make decisions on the approximately fifty legal agreements related to the Lansdowne Partnership Plan—without having to seek Council approval.
This came up because the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) has asked for a change in one of its agreements. It wants the city's consent to not tender construction of the retail base building, but to simply award the work to Minto. The staff report notes that "Minto would earn a fee for the construction of these Retail Base Buildings but the City has received assurances from Minto that the fee being earned is at or below current market rates for equivalent services." It also acknowledges that the deal involves a "non-arm's length contract" between the retail limited partnership and Minto.
When the Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO) reviewed the request, it did not ask for any evidence that this was the best deal for taxpayers. It just agreed with OSEG that sole-sourcing to Minto would be efficient. And, the FEDCO members must have felt that they did not want to pay attention to these sort of details, so they approved downloading future decision-making to staff. Of course, staff decisions have to be within established legal and financial parameters. But given the over $400 million dollars of taxpayers' money which is at stake and the City's track record of Lansdowne (with the cancelled competition, the sole sourcing, the $62 million discrepancy in the original agreement) it would be nice if City Council wanted more accountability, not less.
If you think that changes to Lansdowne Partnership Plan agreements should be decided by elected Councillors, not staff, then please send a message to Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca and your own councillor. It could also be helpful to copy Dawn.Whelan@ottawa.ca who prepares materials for council meetings. Your message may not make a difference to the vote, but it will remind Council that people are paying attention.
There have also been a number of other recent developments re: Lansdowne.
1. The City has short-listed four firms—Carillion Canada, D & G Landscaping, Doran Contractors and Ottawa Greenbelt Construction Co. Ltd—to bid on construction of the urban park at Lansdowne. The City now says the park will cost between $20 and $25 million dollars. That is a considerable reduction from the $35 million that was estimated. It is not clear whether any of features have been cut or not. We'll have to wait for the final bids to see.
2. The City is spending an extra $2 million on environmental clean-up at Lansdowne.
3. The group that owned the sports dome at Lansdowne, Coliseum Inc., is suing the City for $6.5 million for the cancellation of its contract. We don't know what the City will have to pay to settle this deal. What we do know is that thousands of recreational soccer players have been unable to play soccer since Lansdowne construction started.
4. Minto's advertisements for condos at Lansdowne feature the tag line ''own a piece of the Glebe". This is particularly ironic since neither Minto nor the condo owners own any land in the Glebe. All of the land remains in public ownership—an honest ad would read: "own a piece of Glebe air."
If you have a chance to walk by Lansdowne Park, and particularly if you stand on the Bank Street Bridge connecting the Glebe and Old Ottawa South, you can see the massive scale of construction and how little land is being preserved for public use. Take a look or monitor developments online at the Glebe Community Association's website: www.glebeca.ca/committees/lansdowne/lansdowne_updates.html
That's it for now.
Friends of Lansdowne.