By Jordan Press
Local News - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 Updated @ 11:20:01 PM
The debate over the city budget focused on the downtown sports and entertainment centre last night with councillors demanding exact costs needed to open the centre and one saying he wouldn't vote for the budget without the information.
In a report to politicians, staff noted that the city's proposed capital budget for 2007 included about $2.6 million in work around the $41.8-million arena site.
Much of the work was to update infrastructure at the end of its lifespan. Of that, $1.8 million was necessary to get done before the arena opened, staff said.
Councillors told staff the list provided at last night's budget meeting wasn't as detailed as they wanted.
Councillor Steve Garrison said before he was prepared to vote on the budget he wanted to see all the costs definitely needed to get the arena running.
"I would insist before the budget is passed [that] we see that," he said.
He said the information should have come out sooner than this year's budget deliberations.
"This was never once on the radar until now," he said. "Nobody thought to factor this into the business plan until now?"
The comment sparked a reply from Mayor Harvey Rosen, who said the business plan wasn't designed to look at these costs.
Garrison said he had the floor and if the mayor had a comment, he could wait.
Rosen said he was trying to clear up Garrison's misunderstanding of the situation, to which Garrison said the mayor confused him even more.
Councillor Mark Gerretsen said he wanted to know what could be dropped from the budget to save money.
He said the city was spending a lot of money on the downtown, money that could be directed to other parts of Kingston.
"I'm not here to give my position on whether it should be cancelled," he said. "What I'm concerned about is getting the facts … so we can make the [right] decision."
If road and infrastructure work were delayed, it could interfere with the operations of the arena after it opened, said commissioner of growth Cynthia Beach.
That could then affect the projected revenues as laid out in the arena's business plan, she said.
"Certainly, if it were not done this year, it could cause major delays," she said about roadwork around the site.
Staff plan on bringing an updated budget for the arena at council's first meeting in February, Beach said.
Last night was the third night of council's budget deliberations. A fourth meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the council chamber at city hall.
Staff have proposed a $250.9-million operating budget and a $43.3-million capital budget.