PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Niagara Falls council deferred contributing almost $3.5 million for the construction of a new transit facility – because they might want to spend more.
Council heard from the project manager on Tuesday that a scaled back building with a total cost of $25.7 million will house as much as 80 per cent of the bus fleet indoors. Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni urged colleagues to get more information on the price for a larger structure that would have room to store all the buses indoors, out of poor weather.
“I think we are missing the bus here, pun intended,” Ioannoni said. “We need to look at the long game.”
Ioannoni said the City has invested some $19 million on the new WEGO people-mover system in addition to a restocking its own local transit fleet. She said it makes sense to spend money on the infrastructure that would protect the buses from the elements and reduce staff and fuel costs required to prepare buses for the road when they are left outside exposed to snow and other winter conditions.
While supporting Ioannoni’s position, Coun. Wayne Thomson reminded everyone in the room, however, that the most recent report was prompted when council sent staff back to the drawing board to reduce the cost of the new transit building.
“We’ve been here before,” Thomson said.
A year ago councillors voted to build the transit facility on undeveloped land it owns in the Montrose Business Park near Niagara Square.
The building would be being paid for out of the $50 million provided by the federal and provincial governments to cover the cost of the WEGO visitor transportation system. The money was for the purchase of 27 buses, the construction of facilities and the maintenance costs of the fleet. It is planned for the new facility to house city buses, WEGO buses and GO buses.
Council got jittery when it heard there would still be a shortfall of about $6 million for the proposed building. However, in the meantime Ioannoni said he visited a transit facility in the Waterloo region and has become convinced the more expensive facility is now the way to go. That will be debated later this month.
The transit discussion came after council passed a capital budget of $29.8 million.
Finance director Todd Harrison said most of the money – almost $26 million – will go toward repairing roads, sidewalks and sewers – expensive basics that are often at the front of taxpayers’ minds as they drive around streets laden with potholes.
Staff had originally come in with $32 million in new spending, but chopped that back as the budget deliberations progressed.