City has paid $4.6 Million to Waterfront Trust since 2013

 

Over the past few months as questions have arisen about the Hamilton Waterfront Trust’s financial relations with the City of Hamilton, the Bay Observer has attempted to trace the paper trail that one would expect, should clearly indicate the legislative steps leading to council’s approval for various payments to the HWT. The exercise has involved an extensive review of city of Hamilton staff recommendations to council and committees. What emerges is that until July of this year, when city council approved the awarding of $15 Million in Pier 5-8 site contracts to the HWT; city council has never seen in one package of documents a clear listing of projects that were assigned to HWT, their value nor the formula under which HWT would be compensated. Yet in the period from 2013, up to the most recent payments available this year, the city has transferred $4.6 Million to the Waterfront Trust.

In some cases it appears to be a case of ‘mission creep.’ For example, the first contract the City provided to the HWT was in 2012 to undertake some site studies for piers 5-8. Staff asked permission to draft terms of reference for the work. Two years later staff recommend being allowed to “extend the current management agreement” to allow additional work; except that council has never seen the original agreement that is now being extended. As to how much work is being authorized and at what cost, reference is made to projects that are in the 2014 capital budget which most councillors would not have in front of them as they are voting on this item. The staff report does not specify whether HWT is taking on some or all of the projects listed in the capital budget.

At a March 19, 2014 planning meeting, staff asks council to approve HWT as project manager for the construction of a $2.7 Million sanitary pumping station. Again staff are authorized to draft terms of reference but apparently not to bring the agreement to council for approval. The report goes on to refer to council’s earlier approval of waterfront projects totalling $7.9 Million, suggesting, if not specifying, those projects are to be undertaken by HWT. So at this point we have gone from HWT being asked to conduct some site studies in 2012, to now being sole-sourced as a project manager and as far as the documentation indicates, council has yet to see the details of the specific projects and terms of compensation for HWT.

In August 2016 the West Harbour Development Sub Committee minutes recommend that “Staff be directed to formalize an operating protocol for the planning, design and implementation of the city’s public realm projects on Piers 5 to 7….based on the Project Management Agreement of January 7 2015”, which as mentioned earlier, does not appear to have been presented to council. The Bay Observer obtained a copy of the agreement in question, and the language contained in it lacks specifics in determining how much work will be sole-sourced to HWT and the compensation formula. The contract runs from 2014 to 2019. It appears the matters of scope and compensation are left up to whatever is agreed to between City Staff and the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. Nonetheless, without these critical details, Hamilton City Council Hamilton City Council has effectively given its assent to an open-ended financial arrangement between the City and HWT in an incremental series of votes over the past five years. The pattern is reminiscent of the series of council votes that led to the surprise revelation that the same Council had voted its approval of the LRT on dozens of occasions when some believed they were only voting to allow exploratory work to proceed.

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