'Cart before the horse'—Sudbury city staff pushing for project not approved by council
Lobbying letters from city staff to MPs and MPPs obtained through freedom of information requests
Some Sudbury city councillors are surprised to find out that city staff are lobbying provincial and federal politicians to fund projects that council has yet to approve.
Letters written in January and obtained by the CBC through freedom of information requests, show staff listed a $24-26 million twin pad arena to be built in the Kingsway Entertainment District as "priority recreational infrastructure."
Building two community arenas next to the new $100 million event centre is mentioned in the Kingsway plan as a possibility in the future, but it is not formally part of the specific site plan green-lighted by city council.
"We never recommended or rubberstamped a motion or anything of the sort for that kind of funding. So a little disappointed hearing that," says Ward 1 city councillor Mark Signoretti.
"It is putting the cart before the horse."
He says he hopes that this isn't an example of city staff trying to work around city council and plans to inquire about it.
Signoretti says he's also concerned about what this could mean for community arenas in Greater Sudbury, especially those in neighbourhoods nearby such as Minnow Lake and Coniston.
"So does that mean we're closing other facilities? And if that's the case I'd like to know which ones," he says, noting that past attempts to shut down recreational rinks in the city have been highly controversial.
The letters are written by the city's general manager of community development, Catherine Matheson.
She has refused to comment for this story, but did touch on the issue when presenting the Kingsway plans to council in November.
"It's really important that we keep in check with what the vision of council is and the priorities of council," Matheson told councillors.
The list of priority projects in the funding letter also includes a $4.7 million therapeutic pool and a $24 million twin pad arena in Hanmer, both of which have received some degree of approval by city council, unlike the twin pad on the Kingsway.
In another letter in January, Matheson tells MPs and MPPs about a $1 million regional park being developed in the Kingsway Entertainment District, complete with trails and playground equipment.
This also surprised some city councillors and isn't mentioned in any of the site plans.
Ward 8 city councillor and former city arena manager Al Sizer doesn't think this is an issue.
He says it's "not unusual" to give provincial and federal officials a "heads up" on future funding requests.
"It's not specifying a heck of a lot other than if there are dollars available, we're ready to spend them," he says.
Sizer also feels that the Kingsway district would be a good place to put recreational arenas and the city's project manager David Shelsted agrees.
"Basically any time you can combine sites into one location there's some synergies and there would be cost savings," says Shelsted, who says he wasn't familiar with the funding request letters.