Greater Sudbury is getting set to hire a private consultant to give the city advice on what to do with its 600 public buildings.

City council raised the issue again at a meeting Tuesday night, citing concerns about paying insurance and utility bills for buildings the city doesn't need.

An inventory of city-owned buildings was released last year, including 46 that staff considered expendable. City council had been pushing for several years to save money by selling or demolishing some of those structures — but little has happened.

Now the city is getting ready to put out a call for bids from companies interested in studying the city's building stock and drawing up a "utilization" strategy, said Chief Administrative Officer Doug Nadorozny.

"We're just trying to figure out how much we can take in one bite, because as council knows, the whole list of buildings is quite a list,” Nadorozny said.

That list includes arenas, fire halls, public works garages, salt sheds, parking lot ticket booths and libraries, as well as buildings that are rented out to community groups and service clubs.

City budget talks

Council also discussed $94 million worth of planned infrastructure projects for next year, ranging from work on Big Nickel Mine Road to a new sprinkler system at Pioneer Manor.

But some councillors wanted to hear more from staff on how the city is making money, instead of spending it.

Coun. Joe Cimino suggested better marketing city facilities and programs, as well as finding city lands to put up billboards. Another idea that was discussed is a universal pass that would be good for all three of Greater Sudbury's ski hills.

"We have to start looking as well at the revenue side,” said Cimino. “Maximizing ice time, maximizing the use of our facilities, but also — and I've said this before — going out and trying to sell advertising on our facilities."

At Tuesday’s meeting, council also voted to allow the city’s auditor general to hire staff for three-year contracts after he complained publicly that the temporary nature of his office leads to high turnover of employees.

Auditor Brian Bigger suggested making his employees permanent, but city accountants said that could cost the city about $14,000 dollars in benefits.