LVEC's point man is quietly fired by city hall
By Bill Hutchins Heritage Staff
The man who was hired amid much fanfare to quarterback Kingston's plan for a sports and entertainment centre has been quietly kicked off the field.
Don Gedge was terminated from his contract job, though he isn't sure why.
"It was unexpected," says Gedge in an interview from his Toronto home. "I was prepared to see the project through to the end."
Gedge had just come back to his city hall office following a five-week medical leave when he was told to pack up and leave on October 2. He was brought here on a three year contract, and was cut loose exactly two years to the day that he was hired. The city gave him a severance package to leave sooner than expected.
City officials had earlier said they expected Gedge to resume work upon returning from his sick leave, but later confirmed he was no longer an employee.
Mayor Harvey Rosen was aware of Gedge's departure, but would not elaborate on the reasons why. "I can't discuss that. It's not that I don't want to because, you know, it's a personnel matter and there are issues of privacy."
Gedge says he was told the city planned a reorganization and intended to bring in an outside engineering firm to manage the rest of the downtown arena project. So far, there's been no indication the city has done that.
Gedge's swift and quiet departure is in stark contrast to his highly-publicized arrival as the LVEC's project director following a nationwide search in October 2004. City officials defended his $125,000 annual salary and trumpeted his managerial expertise in bringing similar projects from concept to reality. The initial news release also noted Gedge's Kingston connection as a graduate of Royal Military College in 1967.
"We hired him because he's got lots of experience in this type of project," said mayor Rosen at the time of Gedge's arrival.
"He's built this type of facility before. He's managed $20-to-$30 million centres. He knows about the legwork involved," remarked Councillor Ed Smith at the time.
Gedge was touted as the person with the industry contacts and knowledge to draft a business plan, and also write the request for proposals for the private sector to handle the design-build and operating components, which he did.
Construction is now underway on the North Block with a target opening date of December 2007.
Gedge remains confident his groundwork on the business plan and developing fixed price contracts with the builder will ensure the $41.7 million project stays on budget.
In the early stages of the project, Gedge was given the same authority as a city commissioner who reported directly to the chief administrator. New CAO Glen Laubenstein later initiated an internal reorganization, putting Gedge's role under the authority of growth commissioner Cynthia Beach.
Gedge, who's 61, went on sick leave in mid-August, and says he was fully recovered and ready to resume his duties when he was fired. He arrived for work October 2 at 9:15 am and, after a brief meeting with commissioner Beach, was out of the building by 9:45am that same morning.
Since Gedge left, Lanie Hurdle has handled most of the arena planning duties.
While he would have liked to stay on until the entertamment facility is opened, Gedge says he leaves with no regrets.
"There are no hard feelings. In fact I feel quite proud of what was accomplished. When it opens I think it'll be the finest facility anywhere in Canada, including London's (John Labatt Centre)."
Gedge says his health is 100 percent, and he's now pursuing similar contracts in other municipalities. Though, he would like to return to Kingston one more time.
'"I'd very much like to be invited to the opening (of the sports and entertainment centre)."