Windsor City Council approved a dramatic increase in the fee it's charging the federal government for keeping scaffolding on city sidewalks around the Paul Martin building.

The fee will jump from $2,500 to $52,000 a year.

Ottawa is in the process of selling the building "as is."

City solicitor Shelby Askin-Hager was asked what will happen if the government refuses to pay the higher fee.

"That's kind of a bridge we're going to have to cross when we get to it," Askin-Hager said. "Obviously, we're very concerned about the ongoing safety of the pedestrians, given that the federal government has written us and indicated that they feel there is unquestionably a risk to people if they were to take that scaffolding away.

"It is our sidewalk. We do have jurisdiction over the sidewalk. Can we go to court and try to seek an order? Yes, we can."

Mayor Eddie Francis hopes the higher fee will serve as an incentive for the government to come up with a better plan for the future of the downtown office building.

"The whole idea is to try and incent them to do something. They don’t have a plan other than to allow for the building to be sold and allow the new owner to deal with it," Francis said. "Hopefully the federal government will wake up and realize that $52,000 is a significant cost to them."

Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, who represents the downtown ward, said, "$50,000 is not going to put a dent in their budget."

"We need to have some discussion of what our options are here," Valentinis said.

But Francis said there are "no options."

"You can’t take that scaffolding down, it’s a safety and risk issue," Francis said. "We don’t want to draw this out. We’re trying to encourage compliance, we’re trying to encourage a solution now."