Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter to City Council regarding $10M federal centennial funds for February 7, 2005, meeting

February 1, 2005

His Worship the Mayor
and Members of City Council
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Dear Mayor Atchison and Members of City Council:

Re: Federal Centennial Funding

I am writing regarding the $10-million in Federal Centennial Funding that is available to Saskatoon through Western Economic Diversification (WED). As a Ward 1 resident I have concerns with the process that City Council has chosen in determining which project the money should be allocated towards.

According to WED’s December 20, 2004 press release, “The funding will provide one-time assistance to Saskatchewan communities to make significant investments in community-based capital legacy projects.” It states further that the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan initiative will assist Saskatchewan communities, “with the purchase or improvement of community assets for the enjoyment and benefit of all residents.”

With this in mind I am concerned that City Council’s rush to decide where the money will be spent that the citizens of Saskatoon will not be given the opportunity to participate in the process. The $10-million available to Saskatoon is for a ‘community-based’ legacy project ‘for the enjoyment and benefit of all residents.’ I feel that the residents of Saskatoon are by far the biggest stakeholders in this decision and that it is imperative City Council establishes a meaningful public participation and consultation process to hear what the people of Saskatoon want. It appears right now that some City Council members are more concerned with what their own legacy will be rather than take the time to hear from their constituents and to consider all options.

As a Saskatoon resident my preference is that the $10-million in Federal Centennial Funding be used towards the construction of a new main library in the downtown core.

The Frances Morrison Library is the flagship branch of Saskatoon’s library system. It is 39-years-old. It is not up to modern building standards and is simply too small. Over the past few years the library board has done an excellent job identifying the deficiencies of the current building and in demonstrating the need for a new one. A thriving library system is a valuable asset to the community – not to mention its role as a critical public gathering place for everyone.

Councillor Terry Alm was quoted in the January 6, 2005 StarPhoenix (SP) saying that whatever is built ‘should be accessible to the entire population of Saskatoon.’ I feel a new main library would certainly fit that criterion.

I would like to point out that in February 2004 Mayor Don Atchison stated that he was willing to commit $5-million towards a new location for the library. Unfortunately, the offer was pulled off the table a short while later in favour of the South Downtown. In the January 12, 2005 SP Atchison indicated that he considers a strong central library is necessary for a strong downtown. The $10-million in Federal funds would go a long way to achieve that.

I do not support the $10-million in Federal Centennial Funding going towards a new Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) building.

City Council made it very clear last winter that whoever goes onto the Gathercole Site must be able to pay their own way. I feel that using the Federal Centennial Funding on the MVA would betray that.

I would like to point out further that in the January 16, 2004 SP Mayor Don Atchison stated quite clearly that he was against spending any public money on the Gathercole Site – Federal, Provincial or Municipal. His recent public statements suggesting that the $10-million in Federal Centennial Funding be put towards a landmark structure on the Gathercole Site would again, in my opinion, betray what the citizens of Saskatoon were told last winter. In fact, I feel the public has already been led astray on this issue. Consider the following cost estimates for the Gathercole Site so far:

- Infrastructure etc. (including electrical network vault) $12-million
- Federal Centennial Funding (Atchison’s wish) $10-million
- Persephone Theatre project cost $7.0-million
- MVA/Tourism Saskatoon project cost $8.0-million
- Cultural Block underground parking (260 stalls per concept plan) $6.0-million

That’s $43-million and counting – much of which is public money and does not include A.L. Cole. This is a long way from last winter when Council said no public money was available and that whoever goes onto the Gathercole Site must be able to pay their own way. Yet, it seemed no sooner did the Gathercole building start to come down that Council backtracked. It may allow three non-profit organizations onto the Gathercole Site – and spend an enormous amount of public money along the way. I feel that City Council must be held accountable for not being up-front with the people of Saskatoon last year on what the costs were going to be for its pre-determined plan. It must also be held to account for the lack of transparency and citizen engagement process.

In closing, I do not support the $10-million in Federal Centennial Funding being spent anywhere in the River Landing project. I support a new downtown main library. I also support a meaningful public participation and consultation process to decide where the Federal Centennial Funding should be spent.

Thank you for your time.


Joseph Kuchta
Saskatoon, SK


Joanne Mysak, Manager, Western Economic Diversification Canada
Phil Richards, City Manager, City of Saskatoon
Zenon Zuzak, Director of Libraries, Saskatoon Public Library
Saskatoon Public Library Board
Lori Isinger, President, Friends of the Library
Meewasin Valley Authority Board
Planet S


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