Although she has moved on to provincial politics, MPP Donna Skelly still has the scars as souvenirs from her short time on Hamilton City Council. Her colleagues didn’t feel she “played nice” when it came to pointing out waste and poor planning. One such example was a proposal to add 29 spaces to the Parking lot of the Hamilton Housing project, Mohawk Gardens, at the intersection of Mall Road and Mohawk. The project had been approved by Skelly’s predecessor on Council, Scott Duvall, who pledged $350,000 of area rating funds to complete the project. That seemed adequate as the original cost estimate for the project was $323,000 with a $27,000 contingency.
The project went off the rails when somebody, probably not in HHS, decided the expansion of the parking lot somehow justified a complete re-build of the traffic island and lights at the Mall Road-Mohawk intersection and that the original parking lot entrance to the housing complex had to be moved. By the time Skelly opened the file, over $100,000 had been spent on consultant fees alone and there was no sign of any work at all on the parking lot.
In the end, consultants had ballooned the cost of the project to $1.1 Million—the lion’s share of which had nothing to do with the parking lot. Skelly cried foul, incurring the wrath of some fellow councillors who complained that Skelly was “blindsiding” them and staff with these kinds of issues. She got into similar hot water for questioning why $100,000 in consultant fees was needed to build a $600,000 splash pad, that itself seem to be far more expensive to build than those in neighbouring communities.
But Skelly’s concerns about the parking lot issue did trigger an internal audit by Charles Brown and he came back with a damning report. Essentially the report said Hamilton Housing’s procurement processes were sloppy, that there were too many untendered contracts, and that the department seemed to be a soft touch for consultants and contractors. As a result of that report HHS cleaned up its procurement processes, bringing it into conformity with all other city departments. Skelly was also the trigger for another audit that found the city staff had become addicted to use of consultants, and that has resulted in some positive changes as well.
Fast forward to today’s Audit and Administration meeting and staff released a final report on the parking lot project showing a final cost of $399,000—not bad, given the number of years that have elapsed since the project was first envisioned. The actual construction came in just under the original $350,000 estimate—the rest was consulting fees. Not only that, but staff reported they were able to build in some landscaping and other enhancements to the project.
As for the intersection of Mall Road and Mohawk it remains as it has been since Limeridge Mall was built in the 1980s.