Plaza improvements questioned by Moncton councillor

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Plaza improvements questioned by Moncton councillor

Moncton Coun. Paul Pellerin says he's still not convinced local taxpayers want to go over-budget on the downtown event centre and plaza project by $8.7 million.

City council was told this week the cost of the project has grown to $112.9 million. It was originally budgeted for $104.2 million.

One of the cost overruns is the plaza outside the centre. It is now projected to cost $4.3 million, more than double the original estimate of $2 million after a number of features were added.

Pellerin said a $4.3 million plaza sounds great, but council could have done a better job of explaining what the consequences of overspending will be.

Dipping into savings

The plan is to borrow $5.2 million from future capital budgets and to take 2.5 million from the capital reserves fund to pay for it. The city is also expecting a $1 million private donation toward the plaza.

"But that money's been built up over the years by taking taxpayers' money and putting it into a savings account," said Pellerin.

"I'd like to get the feedback from the citizens to see if they actually want us to go into that savings account and put it toward this project specifically, and not other projects, say like the east end pool, or parks and trails and other capital works projects."

Mayor Dawn Arnold has justified the increased cost of the plaza by saying it was "a concrete slab" in the original design and the decision to make improvements came after public consultations.

Plaza improvements

"This was not going to be good enough for a public gathering space outside of the state of the art sports and entertainment centre," said Arnold. "The public really came forward and said, 'No, that's not good enough.'"

The plaza will include an oval that will act as a rink for four months a year, a bandstand stage, green spaces and a gazebo.

Pellerin said the ideas for improvements may have come up in public consultation, but that doesn't mean taxpayers want to go into debt to finance them.

"There's nothing wrong with consulting with the public but was it said at that time what the consequences would be and what the impact would be?" said Pellerin.

"If you ask anybody, 'Hey, do you want something?' 99 per cent of the people say, 'Sure, no problem.'

"But if you say, 'OK, if you want this, here's a potential consequence. Are you still OK with that idea?' — I think that's the way we should be moving forward."

Pellerin said he'd like to see an online weekly update on the downtown project and what it is costing.