'No economic argument' for spending $7.5M on Formula E concrete barriers, says city councillor
Barriers were built specifically to meet Formula E race track specifications
With a little more than a week before the Formula E race, the City of Montreal is again being criticized over the hefty $24-million price tag.
The City provided a rundown of costs in June, earmarking $7.5 million for new concrete barriers that would protect the track.
But some critics say the barriers could have been rented for a fraction of the price.
"There's absolutely no economic argument for this decision to spend $7.5 million on the fences," said Ville-Marie city councillor Steve Shanahan.
He can't see why the race shouldn't be held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, just like the Formula One.
"What I find disrespectful to all the businesses around here, all the people who live here, and certainly all Montrealers who are footing the bill for fences like this is, we have a beautiful race track a stone's throw from here," he said.
City spokesperson Anik de Repentigny told CBC that the barriers were built to specific standards and that renting the ones at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was out of the question due to concerns that they would be damaged.
"If we were to remove them, there was a great risk of them breaking," said de Repentigny.
She went on to say that the newly built barriers would last up to three times longer than normal ones, which have an average life span of between three and five years. She added that the barriers could be reused to replace old ones at Gilles Villeneuve or during festivals around the city.
Mayor Denis Coderre defended the spending in April, saying much of the road surface repair work had to be done anyway and that it would be an investment in Montreal being seen as a green energy leader.
Bad for business
Businesses in the area are no happier with the city's plan to shut down several key arteries to traffic during the race, and restrict lanes during construction of the track.
La Mer, a fish store on René-Lévesque Blvd., has seen a marked drop in business since the tall barriers have gone up and access to the parking lot has been cut off on both ends.
La Mer has been in operation for 40 years, but Meletakos says they weren't consulted or even informed about how their business would be affected.
"We found out about the event by looking at the Evenko website and [saw] that they were going to be right in front of our building," he said.
"We would have loved to have a bigger role in it, especially since we're so negatively impacted by it. I feel that we should have been offered something in the event."
The race is scheduled to take place on July 29 and 30, with another 10 days to dismantle the course.
With files from Navneet Pall