The development of a new arena in Sudbury, Ont., is moving ahead, but the debate has not come to an end.

City council voted seven to four at a meeting on Tuesday to enter into a single-source agreement with a Toronto-based architecture firm — used by Gateway Casinos — to create the site design for how an event centre and an adjacent casino will fit together on the Kingsway. 

The city will be splitting the estimated $387,000 bill for Cumulus Architects with Gateway Casinos and Dario Zulich, the developer of the site where the entertainment complex is being planned.

The city will pay one third of the total price, which is approximately $130,000.

The decision was not made easily.

Gerry Montpellier

Greater Sudbury Coun. Gerry Montpellier called the single-source agreement with Cumulus Architects to create a site design for a new entertainment complex on the Kingsway "unethical," but then retracted his comment. (Benjamin Aubé/Radio-Canada)

Some city councillors tried to defer the matter because Mayor Brian Bigger and Coun. Deb McIntosh were absent from the discussion, and Coun. Mark Signoretti called for the architect contract to go to a bidding process. 

"My understanding on when we passed the motion to move ahead with an event centre, we didn't pass a motion for a casino," Signoretti said.

"I don't think taxpayers' money should be going to pay for a site design development ... The onus should be on the developer, so the Zulich group, the casino group. They should pay for it 100 per cent. Not taxpayers."

Councillor rescinds 'unethical' comment 

Coun. Gerry Montpellier went as far as to call the sole-source agreement "unethical," but then retracted his comment after being rebuked by Coun. Fern Cormier. 

"I expect that [comment] from certain people in the community who may not have a full comprehension of the data and the information we're processing in our staff reports, and the analysis that we go through in arriving to our decisions," Cormier said.

"Rather than blame my colleague for using the word, what it demonstrates, Mr. Chairman, in my view is the sheer volume of misinformation and outright lies that have been circulating in the community since just prior to this report going public."

Lynne Reynolds

Greater Sudbury Coun. Lynne Reynolds voted in favour of advancing the site design concept for a new arena with a single-source contract. (Benjamin Aubé/Radio-Canada)

Cormier referred to an email that was sent to him and over 1,500 people that contained what he described as the "most ludicrous, crazy accusations" that he has seen during his time at Tom Davies Square. The email was about council circumventing the Municipal and Planning Acts to take away public consultation, which he said is completely false.

Design plan to take up to 8 weeks

It is not unusual for the city to enter into single-source contracts, according to Coun. Lynne Reynolds.

"This is something that's going to save our taxpayers' money," Reynolds said.

"It's also time efficient. It won't delay, and we know how long it takes to prepare and award an RFP."

The site plan by Cumulus Architects is expected to take up to eight weeks to produce, including public consultation.

The city does not own the site where the new arena will be built yet.

City council agreed on Tuesday to allow staff to submit a re-zoning application for the property, and to specify that a "public arena" will be the permitted use.