29. June 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: LRT · Tags:
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LRT is Good for Brampton, let’s get the final route alignment RIGHT!

 

We at the CFBB (Citizens for a Better Brampton) believe our City and its Council is on the cusp of making an historical, transformational decision that will impact our growth patterns and directions for years into the future. It is essential to treat this decision with the deep respect and analysis it deserves, having reviewed all appropriate options and alternatives in a way that satisfies a questioning public to the greatest extent possible.

 

So that there is complete understanding of the CFBB position, let us be clear.

 

1) We are totally supportive of the regeneration and sensitive development of the inner core of downtown Brampton.

2) We accept unconditionally the LRT concept and its route up Hurontario/Main to Nanwood Dr.

3) We believe the inner core of downtown Brampton should have only one LRT station at the present GO transfer location.

4) We welcome and are grateful for the Province and the Metrolinx capital funding commitment for the LRT in Brampton, an announcement made only 2 months ago and a complete surprise to many.

5) We appreciate the work that has been done by City staff and consultants for Metrolinx, although many of them do not reside in Brampton and are perhaps lacking the passion of those who do live and work here and know the City well.

 

However, the most important issue for the CFBB and the community is this – what is the most appropriate and optimal routing for the LRT north of Nanwood Dr.?

 

We are unalterably opposed to the current proposed route north of Nanwood Dr. through the small, Heritage and Business district on Main Street to arrive at the Downtown GO Station just north of the Rail overpass.

 

Here’s why:

 

1) Congestion -The inner core through the Four Corners, especially at Nelson and Main is already unacceptably congested. To introduce (cram) into this congestion a three car LRT train crossing Main St N as the entry / exit point for the LRT , dividing two lighted intersections less than 100 m apart is sheer madness. This will cause traffic chaos, will cause delays for the trains and the problem will only get worse, not better. With a projected population of 850,000 + residents in the next 25 years, this already congested area will become a bottleneck for vehicular and transit traffic.

 

2) Traffic Conflict – For the LRT to access the GO station just beyond the CN rail overpass, it will have to tie up vehicular traffic both from the south and from the north while it negotiates the constricted access point. There is plenty of opportunity for train/vehicle collisions.  For example, just one small stretch from Main St. S from Clarence St. to Woodbrook Dr. (approx. 200 m) has seen over 113 police “reported” collisions in the last 5 years and 2 pedestrian injuries. There have been many more unreported minor collisions as well.  Having a shared LRT/vehicle route will undoubtedly cause LRT / vehicle collisions resulting in major delays for transit commuters and drivers.

 

3) Parking – Routing along Main Street both sides with tracks at curbside adjacent to the sidewalks will remove all street parking throughout the day and early evening. Many Downtown merchants rely on their customers being able to park in close proximity to their business.

 

4) Safety – It is hard to imagine travelling curbside train traffic so close to the narrowed sidewalks being safe for the walking public. As stated, the responsibility will fall entirely onto the LRT train technician to avoid any pedestrian, bicycle or vehicle collisions.

 

5) Ambiance – We take great and understandable pride in the Hurontario Street entrance to our City and its downtown. How easily will that largely residential route be despoiled by adding overhead wiring, poles and transformer substations along the route north of Nanwood.

 

 

6) Construction – To tear up Main Street through the heritage area for up to two years will be the death knell of the downtown single proprietor retailers in the Downtown core. It will greatly impact traffic flow and as in most projects like this impede efficient construction of the transit line. These projects are never delivered on-time and on budget.

 

7) Brampton Traditions – Quaint as it may sound, Brampton has many established festivals, parades and the very popular Farmer’s Market during the summer Saturdays. To accommodate these traditions, we understand, the LRT northbound trains would simply stop and reverse at Wellington Street for those periods of alternative use of the downtown. Inconvenience for the ridership to access the GO facility during those times seems not to have been considered, and at best is “mickey mouse”.

 

8) St. Paul’s United Church – It is one of the oldest Churches in downtown and is a superb heritage structure dating from 1886. How will it be able to handle funerals and weddings with appropriate vehicles standing by at the foot of their entrance stairs and sidewalk, obstructing curbside trains from using the tracks?

 

9) Difficult expansion for future LRT routes– Last but not least, we oppose the proposed location of the Terminus station on the west side of Main St.  just north of the CN rail overpass with trains having to cross Main St. N for entry/exit privileges.  How has Metrolinx planned to expand the LRT to reach the Peel Memorial Centre campus or for the possibility of a northern expansion route on Main St.? We believe it will be impossible for any future expansion from this site. It will require a complete re-design of the system, an unlikely financial reality.

 

To date, these negatives to the route through downtown and its heritage district have not been answered. Nor has there been any explanation as to how this route alone will lead to appropriate intensification, preserve the heritage district, and make downtown a friendly pedestrian enclave that would seal its economic success.

Fortunately, CFBB believes that the following alternative has significant benefit and merits deep and not superficial analysis.

 

 

CFBB Alternate Route Alignment: (3 Stations- Nanwood, Peel Memorial Centre, Downtown GO)

 

Our preferred routing is an elevated double track LRT beginning just north of Nanwood Dr, running through the Etobicoke creek ravine, over Clarence St. to the Peel Memorial Centre site. The PMC station would be built and planned with an option to extend the LRT to Queen St. E when financially feasible.   It would then continue elevated over the Centre/Queen intersection, pass to the north side of the CN rail overpass, continue in a NW direction parallel to the YMCA parking lot, over Union and along Nelson St. E, elevated over Main St. N and enter at the second level of a new 1000 car GO parking garage structure located at the west end of the existing GO parking lot. Provisions would be designed into the garage to allow for the LRT train to exit the garage from the west side and merge with the existing Orangeville/ Brampton rail corridor and head north to Williams Parkway or even Bovaird Dr. W.  It could also be designed for further westward extension should an educational or research node be developed in the future at the Flower City campus lands. With the proposed All-Day GO service planned along the Kitchener line, this parking garage will only help solidify our chances for this much needed service. It will also deliver desperately need parking sooner than later to many GO train commuters.

Our alternate and preferred route involves a station at the west side of the Peel Memorial Centre, a major hospital node presently abuilding in which the province ($478M) and the municipal taxpayers of Brampton ($60M) have made significant funding commitments. Peel Memorial is an ambulatory hospital reflecting the very latest in health and wellness care. It will provide employment for over 5000 people and will attract in excess of 200,000 patient/visitor visits. Significant parking at a cost will be provided, but not everyone will access the facility by car. A convenient and accessible LRT to this intense node is, in our opinion, a must for patient and visitor alike. It will help leverage the city’s and province’s investments.

Clearly, this routing avoids all the negatives of the proposed route, and in no way compromises the appropriate redevelopment of the tight inner core, where the entire area is within a 5-7 minute walk of the GO downtown transportation hub. Heritage aspects of the core are not sacrificed. All parades, festivals and the very popular Farmers market can continue to function without any conflicts. Expansion of these popular events can even occur to attract more visitors into the Downtown core.

As part of a second and future phase, a station at the Peel Memorial Centre has the distinct advantage of becoming a convenient transfer point to extend the system to merge with Queen St. E. From there it’s an easily planned route that would include stops at Kennedy, Hansen, Rutherford, West, Dixie and end at the Bramalea City Centre’s ZUM bus terminal located on Team Canada Dr.  Future phases of an expanded LRT system to the north can be easily accommodated at the Downtown Transit hub with appropriate and anticipatory pre-planning and design.

 

Ravine Lands

The Meadow Land Park is used on occasion by cyclists and walkers, but the intensity of use is low. Running a low level quiet LRT train through the land and up to the Peel Memorial Centre would allow many travellers to enjoy the vistas and greenery, and it would not need to conflict with existing pedestrian traffic and recreational usage. There are precedent examples in Toronto where the greater good has been accommodated, and ravine systems have been used as transportation corridors.  As well, having an elevated track through this area will most certainly prevent any fears of flooding the train or putting lives at risk. The train would be quiet, pollution free, and impact to parkland or ravine lands would be very minimal. According to SNC Lavelin this route would also be 0.4 minutes faster than what has been proposed. TRCA has briefly stated on preliminary analysis that this option may negate the majority of options to reduce flooding in Downtown Brampton. How exactly would this route impact any plans? It is our opinion that our preferred route will have negligible impact on any proposed Etobicoke Creek Revitalization / Flood mitigation proposals already reviewed.

 

Costing

We are in agreement with the Metrolinx proposal from Mississauga north to Nanwood. All we are asking is that the cost of the LRT north from Nanwood be separated out to allow Brampton to know the available funding allocation for the last section in Brampton. We would then be able to determine through costing analysis whether this allocation would be sufficient for the final leg or whether our preferred route would need additional funding from the province, the federal government, and/or from the Brampton taxpayer.  By eliminating the need to tear up Main St, we can save considerable construction time and costs. By incorporating a station within a desperately needed parking garage facility also will save millions of dollars building these two projects separately.  SNC Lavelin’s report stated that it will cost an additional $172 million for this option. Have they factored in the savings in construction costs that would occur by building this route and combining a Downtown GO station with a parking garage structure?

 

Specific comments and concerns:

 

1) The position of Mayor Jeffrey in support of the Main Street alignment reflects, we believe, her difficulty in transitioning from her previous provincial cabinet position to that of Mayor of a growing City. As a Cabinet Minister, decisions made were province wide with overall impact broad and general. But at the municipal level, where democracy is keenest and where the “rubber meets the road”, specific issues require quite detailed analysis and understanding of impact and sensitivity. Opposition builds at a moment’s notice, organized and emotional by an engaged citizenry. It deserves an honest hearing and specific responses are necessary which usually require time for adequate debate and discussion.  For whatever reason, the Mayor appears to be in step with the Province and Metrolinx and accepting, or fearing consequences of not accepting, positions being taken by government bodies which have shown no interest or sensitivity to the outcry of local concerns and disagreements. That has to change, and there is some small evidence that Mayor Jeffrey has listened to her electorate, and moved debate and discussion on the LRT routing alone into July. That is still a tight timeframe, and it is occurring in the summer, not ideal for the many that are away for summer holidays.

 

2) The threats coming out of Metrolinx that relate to delays for changes in routing, are simply not appreciated, not realistic, and quite frankly, futile. Brampton only learned 2 months ago that the Mississauga-Brampton LRT would be fully funded by the Province, a surprise announcement that now has turned into a requirement to accept a routing through the Main Street of downtown Brampton and its heritage district – a routing that was turned down by last year’s previous Council in a 10-1 vote for valid reasons. To have this unpopular routing up Main Street “imposed” upon Bramptonians without serious debate, and especially because of the freshness of the funding commitment, is simply unacceptable. Hackles are raised, and Metrolinx needs to step back and listen to local concerns and alternatives. It would be folly to proceed without local population backing and a near unanimous decision by Council. To date, the City Council is split down the middle, and the Mayor may find that her legacy will be ruined if she is the deciding vote in favour of proceeding with a flawed plan. Mayor Jeffrey needs to reflect on the demise of Brampton’s former Mayor regarding the City Hall expansion. Staff’s presentation at the Planning and Infrastructure meeting of June 22, 2015 clearly stated that a decision had to be reached by the fall of 2015. So what’s the rush to make a decision at the July 8th meeting?  History tells us that timelines and signed contracts can be easily broken for other projects yet asking for a proper evaluation of what’s best for Brampton’s future is being ignored.

 

3) It probably is not altogether lost on the Province and Metrolinx that they are dealing with taxpayer money, in this case coming from the sale of a long held cherished asset of the Province. They must be prudent stewards of this potential windfall, and sensitive that it be used in a positive and optimal way. To expedite this decision unreasonably suggests that prudency has gone missing.

 

4) Mississauga and other GTA communities were afforded sufficient time to determine best and most favoured LRT routing. Why does Brampton not deserve the same courtesy? We are the 3rd largest and fastest growing municipality in the GTHA, only behind Toronto and Mississauga. Don’t we have the right to determine what will benefit Brampton the most?

 

5) Brampton City staff have as yet not made the case that the Main Street routing will be the reason for the rebirth of downtown Brampton. From the GO transit hub station, all of Downtown Brampton inner core can reached within 5-7 minutes walking time, well within acceptable time limits!

 

6) It is hard to see how a Main Street two track system through downtown will benefit Bramptonians. The intensity of ridership along the route with few stops north of Steeles would appear to be light because it is simply not convenient enough to take people out of their cars. It will, however be used by some to travel from Brampton to Mississauga for work or shopping, perhaps to the detriment of Bramalea City Centre. It is not difficult to see that Mississauga is the real beneficiary to the Main Street route from the Brampton Go Station transit hub.

 

7) The use of pictures of the LRT operating in a number of European cities has confirmed that twisted cobblestone, narrow and meandering streets there in no way reflect the Brampton Main Street condition, clogged with car traffic. Let’s not forget that Main St. is one of the busiest arterial roadways in Peel Region.

 

 

To Mayor Jeffrey and Council:

 

Please ‘make haste slowly’, and continue to take time to listen to the community. The most appropriate routing is their decision.

Please do not threaten loss of funding in order to rush a decision of major import.  Staff has clearly stated we have until the fall of 2015 to finalize the Brampton route alignment.

 

Ensure that there is close to unanimity on Council to back the decision reached, or folly is sure to follow.

 

Let’s make sure we get it right!

 

What Metrolinx has proposed is the most “cost effective” route, not the “best” route for Brampton’s long term growth and prosperity.


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22. June 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: LRT · Tags:
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We (CFBB) are strongly recommending that staff remove and reschedule item E6 (File Ha.a / EA 10-3130-101) from the June 22, 2015 Planning and Infrastructure Agenda.

 

As the Hurontario/Main LRT is a transformational project that only has once chance of “getting it right” , this alone is reason enough to defer this item so that there will be enough time to properly debate this issue on its own, not mixed in with a very busy Planning and Infrastructure agenda.  The fact that this has been included and approved by City Staff is an issue all on its own!  It is irresponsible for staff to have planned the meeting with this item included on the agenda.   Have we not learned anything from the Dominus City Hall expansion process over the last several years?  Are we really willing to move forward on such an important project by potentially ONE deciding vote?  To us (CFBB), this sounds all too familiar and look at where it got us last time.

 

In October, we thought we were casting a vote for a more inclusive municipal government, one that will listen to its constituents and most certainly vote in favour of what is truly best for this city moving forward.  No one said that it was going to be easy!  There are plenty of issue to discuss, and our feeling is that all available data and options have not been incorporated into the staff recommendation report. Items that we will try to raise as a delegation for the upcoming meeting.

 

From the Committee of Council resolution of September 3, 2014 , the public believed that the surface alignment as proposed was “off the table” and that staff were going to recommend a preferred alternate route for the Downtown. This resolution was supported unanimously by a 10-1 vote (with Susan Fennell voting against).  Was this resolution somehow  “misinterpreted” by senior staff?  Was it disregarded?  How is it possible that the final recommendation is exactly the same?  Who is actually running City Hall, senior staff or our elected representatives?  This is yet another reason for everyone to consider deferring this important item to another date and time.  Anything less will be irresponsible and unacceptable to the residents and taxpayers of this City.

 

Is such a request that difficult to consider?  Has the Province released any funds for the Hurontario/Main LRT project? Are shovels ready to start digging? With 21 km of the 23 km route finalized, and a construction starting date of 2018, can we not take an extra few more weeks or even the summer months to evaluate all options for this project?  In Toronto, the LRT for Scarborough was debated for almost 1 year  and then changed to a subway.  Why can’t we in Brampton get a proper and independent meeting for such an important project as this?

 

Madam Mayor, all we are asking for is to have a separate public meeting to properly debate all of the options.  Don’t we want this project to provide the maximum benefit for the future growth and vison for our City?


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CFBB is pleased to have the opportunity to comment upon the long awaited and recently released Rust-D’Eye Report. Given the fact that CFBB was formed initially three plus years ago due to what we considered a flawed RFP and contract award for the City Hall expansion, we have been following this project with more than a keen eye. We have made numerous submissions to Council and the media on various concerns throughout the process, and continue to do so today. We have submitted a more detailed summary to all Council members for your review.

Our Comments

1) We add our voice to the chorus of upraised shouts in the community and beyond saying that this report lacks credibility. It is largely based on a series of interviews and discussions with staff (some already departed) and consultants, all of whom were deeply involved in the development of the ‘Competitive Dialogue’ process and contract award through to the actual construction and partial occupancy of the City Hall expansion. With a lawsuit hanging over their collective heads, why would anyone admit to a flawed, little understood process, or that the process could have been implemented better, or that staff acted improperly, or without authority? Shouldn’t Council have been able to anticipate the outcome without spending an inordinate amount of taxpayer money, to this point according to the media having reached $268,000?

No attempt seems to have been made to interview outside groups like ourselves that might have had a different view or perspective based on Proposal Call and development experience. That seems an obvious shortcoming. A listing of those interviewed should have been included as an Addendum.

Mr. Rust-D’Eye appears to have had an altogether similar experience in the neighbouring community of Oshawa, where his report there enraged the public and garnered charges of “whitewash”. Perhaps if Councils could set different parameters for these ‘investigative’ reports and how they should be mandated and prepared, credibility of the ‘fact finding’ could be improved. Best practice would have been to hire a well-known specialist in municipal procurement rather than a lawyer whose firm had past connections with the City. It would have allayed any sense of conflict of interest.

2) It seems very hard to understand why the City needed to go to the expense of hiring a highly paid consultant to recommend and help implement the ‘Competitive Dialogue’ RFP process, a European import procurement concept which was totally unfamiliar in Canada. It was only instigated in the U.K. in 2006 to be used in large and complex projects. To date, so few have been completed that there is limited experience with its success or legal exposures. The interpretation of the process by staff and the Canadian consultant resulted in extreme secrecy and control of information, shutting out even the elected politicians as well as the public. In our opinion, it was simply an inappropriate, costly, and unduly complicated concept to be used in Brampton to build its relatively small, straight forward City Hall expansion project for which the public demanded transparency and accountability. Too much authority and latitude was delegated to staff who were themselves unfamiliar with the process and seemingly not schooled in development matters.

And yet, Mr. Rust D’Eye has no trouble exhorting the concept and process as being unflawed, well implemented and appropriate for Brampton. We believe he is a little out of touch with reality here in Brampton.

 

3) When 40 plus RFP packages were taken out by a variety of interested parties, but only three applications were received, why didn’t the alarm bells sound that there just might be something wrong with the Call. After all, the City Hall expansion project should have been seen as an attractive opportunity by the development community, particularly with a solid Brampton city tenancy in an economically difficult climate at the time.

We can speculate on why the response was so completely poor – process too secretive, terms too unfair and one-sided, Brampton past reputation for Calls, a feeling that the outcome was known in advance. Whatever, only three replied; surely a minimum number to indicate a successful competition, and one of those was disqualified. Imagine! Only two potential players remained. Had it not been for Brampton tenant requirements, this RFP should have been cancelled.

Clearly, this RFP Call is seen here and elsewhere as an abject failure. The Brampton public never had the opportunity to see refreshing creativity with the efforts of an enthused development community.

So Mr. Rust D’Eye’s enthusiastic description of the process and outcome carries little weight, and in fact, suggests a not very informed view.

 

4) The report includes the report of Fay Booker, a financial consultant, retained to analyse the entire financial arrangement and whether it represented “value for money”. Her findings in our view are the real Achilles heel for Mr. Rust-D’Eye’s positive conclusions, for she makes it clear that Brampton overpaid by approximately $36 M going the route that they did with the selected contractor, Dominus. That parallels conclusions that CFBB reached a few years ago. Once we were able to find out the areas of the component parts of the project (not from the City but from Freedom of Information Ontario!), we used industry standard and published construction cost information and ascertained that the Dominus project development cost was in excess of 20% higher than it should have been. That, of course, translates into higher annual rental payments.

For Mr. Rust-D’Eye to reach the conclusion that, faced with the Booker analysis, the deal with Dominus represented good “value for money” is quite beyond comprehension. No matter what the report says, the Brampton taxpayer has been “shafted” because of previous Council decisions on this project. They, perhaps, unwittingly allowed it to happen on their watch. What a legacy to leave for the citizens of Brampton who will be paying for this lapse in good judgement for the next 25 years.

 

5) The so called ‘Option Agreement” regarding a small piece of land needed for Phase Two (Library Phase) appears to be one of the great “sleight of hand” moves. Apparently, through a little known capital acquisition fund mentioned in Addendum One of the RFP, staff have the right and authority to make land acquisitions without specific Council approval. Staff used that fund to pay a fee for a three year, irrevocable land option for $480,000 to secure the land for Dominus, unbeknownst to Council. The question we would have: Is use of this fund legitimate to purchase an option only, money which would be lost unless Phase two proceeded and which would require a further outlay of $2M to actually purchase the land in three years’ time, all without verification by Council?

The Rust-D’Eye report seems to sanction and not be troubled by this move. We are not so sure. Why should Council not have been informed, just to be open and accountable? But that seems to be the way with this whole project.

 

6) The former CAO has stated that staff had the authority to transfer the Dominus lease agreement (and, presumably, the original agreement with Dominus) to the new landlord Fengate without ever advising Council. That seems to us to be a real stretch, given that the deal with Dominus described them as “the long term partner with the City”. Did staff assume authority to, in effect, free wheel with formal agreements using their own best judgement? Did Council even know about their new “long term partner” before the deal was papered? And shouldn’t it have? Mr. Rust-D’Eye seems not to have been bothered by this extraordinary assumption of power by staff.

By the same token, staff along with the Mayor, agreed to cap the penalty for Dominus for missing delivery dates. Shouldn’t that have been a Council decision?

Had substantial completion been achieved last summer and so certified by the architect when Dominus decided to depart the project and sell their interest to Fengate? Was the building ready for tenant occupancy with appropriate occupancy permits issued to allow tenants to occupy the space without liability and for rental payments to commence?

So many questions arise when the Council and the public are not made privy to basic information to which they should be entitled or be made aware. Secrecy begets secrecy, and trust is easily eroded.

Summary

For us, the conclusions of the interim Auditor General’s report on a whole host of accounts does not stand muster. It lacks credibility, particularly so because it ignores the Booker findings that show the Dominus deal to have been far more expensive than a more traditional and transparent arrangement to build the needed facilities. Additionally, to have found and supported interviewee accounts of implementation perfection defies reality.

A process to improve our SWQ really began in 2005, that’s 10 years ago! It regained momentum in the summer of 2009 and almost 6 years later we still don’t have a project that is complete, a project that actually re-developed the SWQ of the Downtown, a project that ignored any architectural integrity and design, didn’t involve the public or elected officials, was too expensive, has made re-development of the actual SWQ more complicated, was secretive and filled with controversy. We have only one comment…..…WHY?

Many of you ran for elected office on the promise to “clean up” City Hall, make it more open and transparent, more accountable and to restore business community and taxpayer confidence.   Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the efforts of a few Council members, a few concerned residents and business owners, and one reporter, the sweeping change of voter sentiment that helped you get elected might have never happened.

We believe everyone here is familiar with the saying, “you learn from your own mistakes”. So please tell me how can the city of Brampton move forward and become a leader, a model for accountability and transparency if we don’t even admit that any mistakes were made?

Thank you.

Doug Bryden and Chris Bejnar, and John Buch

Co-Chairs – CFBB 


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To Mayor Jeffrey and Council

There will be a public meeting to discuss the Rust-D’Eye Report next Monday night. Here is a little background on CFBB concerns regarding the City Hall expansion for your interest.

CFBB came about largely because of our concerns over the Competitive Dialogue RFP for the expansion, its lack of transparency, and the contract award. We have not been shy in commenting upon the process, the architecture, the construction methodology used, and the all too obvious shortcomings of the building itself and particularly the late delivery, which is at this time, still on the horizon.

The report covers some 134 pages, and is a tough slog for a volunteer group such as ours to make detailed comment.

Some overall comment:

1) The report seems largely based on interviews with City staff and various consultants who were connected with the process throughout. Those involved would, we would think, paint the best picture possible to ensure that the process went well and as expected, and that there were no flaws or staff acting improperly and without delegated authority. No one is going to admit wrong doing, nor probably have an opinion that things could have been done better.

The result of all the interviews gives process, staff and consultants a clean bill of health. The report appears like a $160,000 white wash, but given our knowledge and experience, should we have expected otherwise? Had serious flaws and misdemeanours been found and acknowledged, it would simply have provided additional ammunition for the Inzola lawsuit, so acknowledgement of any shortcomings in the report was unlikely to occur.

What we found odd is that Rust-D’Eye never interviewed CFBB for an outside opinion, given our profile on this matter, and that is a serious omission, we believe, and makes his report less credible.

2) At the get-go, we always believed that Dominus should have been disqualified at the start because they had no office building expertise or experience. Their renderings at the public meeting at the Marriott Hotel back in November 2011 showed only condo/residential buildings in support of their submission. When we asked that question at the meeting chaired by our former City Manager Deborah Dubenofsky, we were met with a chorus of boos from the Fennell cheering section. One of the Dominus executives did say that they were intending to hire expertise in office building construction. Our question – how did Dominus get into the starting gate? (The result of not being familiar with office construction was daily evident to passersby and with discussions with on-site project management personnel).

3) One of our founding members, Doug Bryden, was one of the many interested parties who took out the RFP package (over 40 in all). He says: “My reading of the RFP certainly dulled any interest in proceeding to try and put a bidding group together. The process was unfamiliar, the terms unusually restrictive, and in the legal section patently unfair, giving the City total control of submissions once made. There was no guarantee that favoured or innovative information wouldn’t end up being shared with other proponents, or, like previous Brampton Calls, the project wouldn’t proceed at all for political reasons. In fact, it could be looked at as a “fishing expedition” at no cost to the City. They refused to pay any moneys for submissions”.

In the end, only three submissions were received – Dominus, Morguard and Inzola. That should have started the alarm bells ringing at the City, for this project should have been seen as a splendid opportunity by the development community. With the economy still dealing with uncertainty, the expectation should have been for significant interest from developers anxious to lock into a high profile, three phase, $500 M Downtown revitalization project. That didn’t happen. In conversation had with a senior executive of one of the largest construction companies in the country, he said: “the outcome is already known, it’s not worth the trouble”. He was also concerned about the commitment of Brampton to the project.

We believe the reason for limited interest was also because the process was so secretive and the terms so restrictive and unfamiliar, with no guarantee of public involvement, transparency and fairness in selection. As well, it was getting close to the election, so there could be political consequences in decision making.

4) In the submission package outlining what the proponent was to supply, there was a requirement to enter into a confidentiality agreement, but the schedule outlining the agreement and its contents was not available for review, an unacceptable omission. There was also no requirement to include an “order of magnitude” of the submissions made, so costs were not to be considered in the initial submission, a rather strange condition.

5) The ‘Competitive Dialogue’ process was a procurement import from Europe, suggested by Professor McKellar of York University who was hired as a special consultant to frame the RFP, and then asked to stay on to oversee its implementation. (Optics not great). It was clearly unfamiliar territory for potential bidders in Canada. It was intensely secretive, hardly acceptable in this day and age in Canada which demands transparency. To have Rust-D’Eye, Emmanuelli, and McKellar sing its praises in the report, I think, shows an incredible disregard and disrespect for the taxpayer, who is the ultimate funder of the project. And to keep the elected representatives of the public ignorant of broad details of the process, making them appear foolish in the public eye for not having answers on the project and having to take the wrath of the public, is simply beyond the pale.

Was Council properly briefed by staff and given the required time and information to fully understand this new and untried process? It would appear that Council delegated altogether too much latitude and authority in decision making to staff (and consultants) – a staff which had limited understanding of the process and even less on matters of development experience. Their inability to answer basic and simple questions allowed them to hide behind the secrecy dictates of the RFP and the requirement for non-disclosure of reasonable information to Council and the public. Several times, CFBB had to go to the Information Privacy Commission of Ontario to ferret out basic statistical information to allow reasonable analysis of the project and its cost.

Why should citizens need to file an IPO request to obtain such basic information as the square footage of the building, a fact that is readily and normally available for any construction project? Why where there no comparables presented to Council in the staff report on similar sized GTA office projects? A request to explain how senior staff calculated the $242 cost per square foot presented to Council before the March 28, 2011 vote to this day has not been explained. In fact, a second IPO request revealed that no such document even exists. How is this possible?

6) There seems to have been no one promoting the tried and true public RFP Calls which focus on competition of architectural concepts, often with a guaranteed concept fee, totally transparent for the public to see and weigh in on. Once selected, the competitive bidding on contracts to build the facility based on approved plans and municipal approval and inspection is a fundamental. It allows a myriad of qualified contractors and sub trades to bid on local projects, and best and optimum pricing to be obtained from the market place. Why was it necessary to choose a completely new, unfamiliar and never tried process for this important project?

7) The report shows that a more conventional route for financing the project by the City would have resulted in a significantly lower cost to the taxpayer, primarily due to lower financing cost for the City over private funders. The stated reason is that the City wanted to lay off risk to the private sector so as to know what their end cost was going to be. Statements by Dominus executives and City Manager Dubenofsky proclaiming that “the total cost of the project was irrelevant to the taxpayers” were confusing and quite frankly irresponsible. Surely they would have realized that negotiating the best financing rates and the best price for the project would have made a favourable impact on the $8.2 M annual lease payments taxpayers are now paying for the next 25 years. So why would the cost be irrelevant?

Laying off risk suggests that the City and staff are ignorant and incompetent in development matters, and that cost overruns are unacceptable whatever the reason. There is some truth to this argument based on experience. But how should the risk cost be measured by laying it off to the private sector? The private sector has to provide for the risk on the project, plus add an appropriate premium and profit. There are no bargains, and often the private sector adds a premium because they are having to deal with government and their personnel and process.

We believe that this approach smacks of the P3 (Public/Private/Partnership) process that seems all the rage these days, and in some cases is appropriate at the more senior levels of government on more major, complex projects. But it is so hard to measure the cost of laying off risk, and in the end, the P3 process is much more expensive.

(One untried and potentially best solution at the local level is for the City to retain a private Development Management firm on a fee and performance bonus basis to coordinate the various facets of the project, be part of contract awards with the general contractor who himself/herself is a competitive winner, contracted with to administer the general conditions and the various contracts for a set fee. The financing would be the responsibility of the City at their more advantageous rates).

For your interest and recall, CFBB took significant objection to the stated development cost of the project. Once we were able to determine the project areas (not from the City but from access to the Freedom of Information Ontario), our analyses using published Industry standards indicated that the agreed to Dominus cost was over 20% higher than it should have been. And that resulted in 25 year annual rental payments that were well beyond what they should have been!

Now for some questions:

1) Does the report adequately deal with the fact that the project is late by over a year, and still to our knowledge has not been certified by the architect as being substantially complete (98%). And yet it is being partially occupied. What are the liabilities being assumed by the City for tenants and their personnel? What about warranties and their start date? And the list goes on.

2) Are we satisfied that the City Manager had the authority to settle, with the Mayor’s signature, the penalty clause, and did the Councillors know or understand that the penalty amount was capped, well below what it might have been?

3) Why did Dominus sell to Fengate, and did the City Manager have the authority to agree to the sale? Was Dominus financially challenged? Was there a default involved, and if so, it would be normal for the City to take over the position and finish the project using the completion bond. That would have allowed significant savings on the project rental over time. Was that ever considered?

4) Does Fengate have the credentials to finish the building now that they are the long term landlord and was that company pre-approved by the City?

5) Did the report adequately cover the option on the second phase land, and why did Council not know that the agreement with Dominus indicated that the City would supply the funds for the option to Dominus? Questions from Council in 2011 if in fact Dominus was responsible to secure the land and pay for the option were answered yes. The option fee of $480,000 was a “fee” to hold the property required at a fixed price for three years. This was not for land acquisition as staff suggested in the Auditor’s report. A copy of the Option Agreement should have been included in the Rust-D’Eye report.

6) It became obvious that the staff seemed to have amazing authority to change the rules of the game throughout the construction process in the City’s favour when they ran into an on-site problem.

– staff never required an approved Site Plan for the project from Dominus at the beginning of construction. In fact, the Site plan was a work in progress throughout, which allowed Dominus to keep the project going whenever they ran into a problem on site. Experience suggests that this is not a professional approach.

– staff was able to circumvent the planning guidelines for George Street, approved by Council, so that the building could encroach on the sidewalk and thwart the much desired pedestrian ambiance of the streetscape. That would never have been allowed to a private sector developer.

– did staff ever consider the purchase of additional Queen Street properties (which were offered to the City) to improve the dimensions of the City owned site, to simplify excavation, to prevent the need to add an additional floor of parking, to allow separated ingress and exiting of the garage, and to allow the building to have appropriate setbacks on George Street?

– did staff take into consideration the internal conflict between parking ingress and exiting for car and service traffic?

– did staff consider the possible and likely conflict between the exiting from the garage onto George and the exiting of the garage under City Hall at the same location?

– did staff ever consider how the design and architecture would relate to downtown Brampton? And how the pedestrian overpass on George would block the sightline to Gage Park?

7) Why was the decision made to remove the possibility of expropriation by the City which had been a possibility originally, thereby making it well-nigh impossible for any proponent to assemble property at the SWQ corner at Main and build the expansion adjacent to the existing City Hall?

8) Why did Rust-D’Eye describe the building expansion as being “impressive” (his subjective opinion) when most in the community find it to be an eyesore, not in keeping with downtown Brampton, over-lighted, and in the wrong location?

9) Did staff believe that the optimal location for the building was at the SW corner of Main and Queen (as did the public), their understanding of the SWQ, or was it the Mayor who wanted to expand the location criteria to be able to use City owned land, not realizing that the site was too small for the building that was designed and would sacrifice floor plate efficiency?

These questions and others are compelling, and require answers. The report may or may not give satisfactory responses. But in sum, the report appears to be supportive to a fault of the process used and those charged with the responsibility of implementation.

Respectfully submitted,

CFBB – Citizens for a Better Brampton

April 30, 2015


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