By PAM DOUGLAS
Special to Focus
The City of Brampton complied with an order from Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) yesterday and released the floor-by-floor square footage of Dominus’ city hall expansion project, which is currently under construction in the downtown core.
And it looks like Dominus’ $94 million price tag on construction works out to a total of approximately $241.66 per square foot.
That’s 205,516 square feet (gross) in administration space, a police sub-station, retail, community and multi-purpose rooms, plus 183,458 square feet (gross) of underground parking (five levels, 443 spaces), for a total of 388,458 square feet.
That 388,458 was the total, including parking, that City Buildings and Property Management Commissioner Julian Patteson had already revealed at council on March 28, 2011, but the city refused to repeat those numbers thereafter. It works out to 330,107 net square feet.
A two-page document which, with a title page, is really only one page of actual square footage information, was released publicly today, and to resident Chris Bejnar who appealed the city’s refusal to release the exact square footage of the project to the IPC.
Bejnar has said he plans to call a meeting of the Citizens for a Better Brampton (CFBB) group to discuss the information, analyze it and put together a response to it, after consulting with someone in the construction industry about the reasonableness of the cost per square foot of the project.
He has maintained that the project is overpriced, but the City of Brampton and Mayor Susan Fennell have responded that it doesn’t matter how much it costs Dominus to build the building— the city isn’t paying for it.
“The square footage construction cost is an unfortunate distraction,” said Fennell in a release late this afternoon. “In fact, it does not affect property taxes because it is
Dominus who is paying for the entire cost of construction- not the city,” Fennell said. “In August 2011, council approved staff’s recommendation of Dominus as the city’s best partner for the Southwest Quadrant Renewal Plan.”
The city said it refused to release the two-page document because it was “commercially confidential” and Brampton could not release it without Dominus’ consent. Dominus Construction Group, which owns the information, asked that it be kept confidential, according to the city.
“The IPC is not bound by the same legal obligations as the city,” according to the city’s news release. “The IPC felt releasing the square footage information would not harm business for Dominus or the city.”
The IPC ruled on July 31 that Dominus did have reason to expect the information it gave to the city was going to be kept confidential, but that the public’s right to know is crucial and releasing the information would not hurt Dominus competitively.
The city lists the benefits of the project as:
• Dominus pays construction costs, and no new property taxes will be needed to directly fund the plan;
• the city won’t start paying rent until 2014, when the project is finished;
• the city will own the building after 25 years;
• the rent payments are fixed at $8.2 million per year for 25 years, a rent-to-own total of $205 million. The city equates the payments to mortgage payments.
Fennell released a statement saying the square footage information released today does not change anything. There were 11 public council meetings and two public information meetings held to discuss the expansion plan and the city has approved a good deal.
“We are not being secretive. We are following a process approved by Council. We are following Ontario law,” she said.
“No new taxes will fund the city hall expansion. No services will be cut to pay for it. No money will be put up-front by the city. Council harnessed the creativity of the private sector to provide the best value for money. There is certainty in our sound business decision to partner with Dominus.”
She said, “Certain individuals may continue to criticize council’s decision, and that’s their right. But it doesn’t mean their criticisms are informed, accurate, or free of an agenda.
By PAM DOUGLAS