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City staff fumbles ball over stadium project

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Hamilton politicians are being kept in the dark by the provincial government over what’s going on at Ivor Wynne Stadium, they say.

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson and Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli expressed their frustrations over a lack of information concerning the change from rebuilding Ivor Wynne Stadium to now constructing an entirely new stadium for the 2015 Pan Am Games and eventually, for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Councillors were taken by surprise last month when it was revealed at a committee meeting city staff, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and provincial officials decided to rebuild Ivor Wynne Stadium rather than renovate the north stands, without first telling politicians. The north stands, it was found, wouldn’t conform to city building codes under a renovation.

“You changed the scope without informing us,” Ferguson told city staff during a Sept. 6 subcommittee meeting.  “We are representing taxpayers and we are not being told. I take issue with that.”

Morelli agreed, saying councillors are “out of the loop” when it comes to any information about the stadium construction. Now there is talk the Tiger-Cats are looking a realigning the configuration of the facility from a north-south direction to east-west to take advantage of a better environment, he said.

“It feels like Infrastructure Ontario is over there, and we can’t ask any questions,” said Morelli.

This isn’t the first time politicians were left fumbling for information.

Councillors in June were blindsided when told the Tiger-Cats wouldn’t be able to use the stadium for one year, rather than two. The plan is for construction to begin Dec. 1, 2012, with a completion date set for June 2014.

Ferguson asked Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis if he can guarantee that the stadium will be completed on time, or will the city be “embarrassed?”

“Are you absolutely sure that you can build it in one year?,” he asked.

“Yes, I’m confident,” responded Davis.

Ferguson asked city staff during the Pan Am Stadium Precinct subcommittee for the designs of the new Ivor Wynne Stadium, but was told the documents comprise seven binders and staff didn’t have them available. Ferguson said at the last subcommittee meeting in June politicians asked to see the designs before they are used to issue a request for proposals on the facility, expected to be issued Sept. 15.

Ferguson was also furious at Infrastructure Ontario not having a representative at the meeting to answer questions about the design and cost of the stadium.

“I’m so disappointed Infrastructure Ontario is not here,” he said.

Ferguson accused IO of “padding” the original cost of the stadium at $138 million, which included rebuilding the south stands, and renovating the north stands. Politicians questioned the cost as being too much. But with the cost increasing to $145 million, including $4 million from the city to demolition the stadium, the province now says it can rebuild the facility without increasing the price.

“They are padding this thing to death,” said Ferguson. “I hope they don’t take us for suckers.”

If the province has added more money to the stadium’s cost, then Ferguson says, they are doing the same thing to the velodrome.

“I’m not happy about this,” said Ferguson.

City staff attempted to answer the councillors’ questions, saying prices for a large and complicated project are usually more uncertain at the beginning of the process than at the end when more information is available.

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