Hamilton General Issues Committee for August 12, 2013

Hamilton City Council is holding it’s only GIC meeting for August with the big motion being Sam Merulla’s plan to use the Future Fund to help fund the Stadium Precinct high school and recreation centre project.

Other highlights on the agenda include the Annual Update from Tradeport on John C. Munro airport, a call for the province to change labour laws to get the City out of its Carpenters Union certification, extending grants to Mount Hope, and a motion to allow disqualification of individuals and corporations from City grants and loans for past criminal convictions.

Also of note, changes to the heritage grants and a multi-residential grant for The Corktowns development at 149 Young Street in Ward 2.

Council is then scheduled to enter into closed session to deal with an “Extension of Service Contract for Management of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market” and a “Real Estate Matter regarding 64 Melrose Avenue North”

Agenda

The full agenda is on the City website here.

Livestream at 9:30am

Future Fund money for Stadium Precinct School and Recreation Centre

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla’s moving a motion to use $17-million from various sources to help pay for the new Stadium Precinct high school and recreation centre project.

  • $1.2-million from the existing Capital Project for the Central City Seniors and Community Centre fund;
  • $3.4-million from Future Development Charges (borrowing at present);
  • $500,000 from the Ward 3 Capital Reserve (Councillors discretionary fund);
  • $2.85-million from proceeds received in 2013 from the 2010 Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) Reconciliation;
  • $1.5-million from Council’s Strategic Reserve (Council reserve for unexpected Capital expenses); and
  • $7.55-million from the Hamilton Future Fund “A”.
Future and Current State of the Future Fund

Citing estimates that Future Fund “A” will be $33,258,000 as at December 31, 2016, Merulla’s motion argues the Fund can be used for the project. The 2016 estimate is based upon favourable economic conditions and loans – including those decided by Council – being repaid.

Future Fund “A” is estimated to be down to $10.2-million dollars in 2014. Council originally envisioned “A” always remaining at a minimum $100-million to provide interest in perpetuity to fund community initiatives and projects.

This term, Council has used – over the objections of the Future Fund Board – the Fund for the PanAm Stadium and the McMaster Downtown Campus.

In Spring, Council asked the Future Fund Board for money for the Stadium Precinct School and Recreation Centre. The Future Fund Board rejected the request during their May meeting. (Full Replay Here)

School Board Deadline

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board set an end-of-July deadline for City Council to provide $17-million towards the new high school property. During it’s July meeting, Council voted to ask staff for a further report on the plan and how to find the money to fund it.

In the meanwhile, the present owner of the former Scott Park says he will fight expropriation and the School Board has yet to file for expropriation. (Upon filing, the Board is committed to paying fair market value)

The Board has not answered why the former Scott Park is their only viable site when the Board already owns land across the street. Parkview High School is slated for closure and King George elementary is currently used as a Board maintainance facility.

Council Split

Council was deeply divided during the July meeting when a similar motion was presented. Merulla’s motion was made public Friday afternoon and no other Councillors have expressed public opposition.

Airport Annual Presentation

The Airport’s annual presentation does not include a handout posted to the City website. CATCHwrote a comprehensive piece last week noting that flights are down at the airport year-over-year in June.

The Airport’s financials are no longer public, making it difficult to indicate if the drop in flights is impacting the button line.

Hamilton Heritage Property Improvement Grant Changes

Staff request – as part of the consent agenda – direction to change how the grants work to enable larger property owners to receive larger grants based upon size and locations of property.

If approved, staff have to return to a public meeting of the Planning Committee for public input and final approval.

The changes appear to be partially the result of recent talks with David Blanchard surrounding his planned demolition of 18-29 King Street East (see Raise the Hammer for in-depth coverage). The City is offering funding to preserve the funds if/when the properties are demolished. The proposed changes will make more funds available to Wilson-Blanchard.

Criminal Records and City Grants

City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski is recommending Council send a proposed clause to its grants applications to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner. The policy, which is designed to give Council power to deny grants to those convicted of serious crimes that calls into question their ability to repay, does not achieve what was sought when it was initiated.

The policy follows a public outcry when Denis Vranich was given $1.2-million in incentives for his redevelopment of 275 King Street West. Denis Vranich is a convicted sex offender who, at the time of the City funding, still owed his victim $300,000.

Council debated changes to City policies to disqualify convicted criminals immediately thereafter.

“There must be a nexus between the requirement and the risk being mitigated,” writes Atwood-Petkovski in her report. “A criminal conviction record check showing for example, convictions related to fraud or theft raises concern about whether the applicant will undertake the matter for which the loan/grant is sought with honesty and integrity.”

In short, being a sex offender does not on its own disqualify someone from City incentives.

Bill 73 and Carpenters Union Certification

City Council will vote on a motion moved by Ward 15 (Flamborough) Councillor Judi Partridge to support Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener -Conestoga) Private Members Bill 73 that will amend the Labour Relations Act to make municipalities non-construction employers.

Hamilton’s in the [spotlight](michaelharrismpp.ca/MichaelHarrisNews/Details/End of closed tendering in Hamilton would save millions of dollars) on this issue. In 2005, the two of the City’s four carpenters certified as a union. Since that time, all City construction work must be done with the Carpenters’ Union. Nicole MacIntyre wrote a comprehensive piece about how the certification occurred (It involved a Friday of the long-weekend fax to a rarely used City fax machine).

The City estimates the Carpenters’ Union certification – using a provision in the Act designed for construction companies – is costing the City anywhere from $4-mil to $10-mil per year.

The debate isn’t only about Hamilton’s situation. It is part of an ongoing battle between factions of Labour and corporations about open shops in the skilled trades.

Mount Hope Grants

Item 7.1 proposes extending various property, heritage, and businesses grants available to the Downtown Core and others Business Improvement Areas to the Mount Hope community to encourage intensification and commercial activity in the existing urban area east of the Airport.

If approved the proposal will be considered as part of the 2014 budget process.

An increase in population and commercial in the village will assist making the case for public transit expansion and other city services.

The Corktowns

IMG_00000611 The Corktowns financial incentives is on the consent agenda. This is a good news item for the City – an intensification project in the Downtown Core. The loan for this project from the City is $356,000.

Garnet Shawn Maher, the owner and developer of the property, emailed me on Friday to say that only one unit remains unsold and construction is underway.

Closed Session

Council will go into Closed Session for two items:

  • “Extension of Service Contract for Management of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market” and;
  • “Real Estate Matter regarding 64 Melrose Avenue North”

The Farmers’ Market is currently at the centre of the missing million dollars investigation after a City employee stole $1,052,235.20 over nine years.
64 Melrose Avenue North is directly across from the Stadium site. Council meet behind closed doors in July about this property and gave direction to staff at the time.

Note: Police Services Board meets at 4pm and I will need to cover. If Council continues past 3pm, I will be directing you to the City stream as I am the only camera at Police Services Board