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Brampton council shocked by cost of York Region project

Brampton council is asking York Region how it is spending about the same price for its new headquarter as what Brampton spent on its new city hall, even though York's building is 3.5 times bigger.
Nov. 9, 2016
By San Grewal

While some residents in York Region are angry over a $212-million price tag for a soon-to-be-built regional headquarters, Brampton councillors are questioning how their own controversial city hall building cost almost the same price for less than a third of the space.

“Is this supposed to tell us what we already know - that we overpaid?” Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon asked his colleagues, voicing frustration as a motion at Wednesday's council meeting was introduced to find out how York Region is paying $212 million for a planned 422,000-square-foot building.

In 2011, Brampton agreed to a deal for its new 126,000-square-foot city hall building that is costing local taxpayers $205 million.

“I almost laughed,” said Councillor Elaine Moore, pointing out a Toronto Star article about the cost of York Region's new headquarters. “I certainly received emails yesterday,” she said, mentioning the reaction of some constituents.

Moore told the Star that even though the York project's cost does not include financing (it's being funded internally) while Brampton's cost does, the math still doesn't add up. "With municipal borrowing rates having maintained at historic lows around three per cent, we are still paying close to three times more than York," she said.

Councillors have tried since 2011 to find out from staff what financing rate was charged to the city by the builder for the city hall expansion, but senior staff have refused to release the financing figure, citing confidentiality.

Moore has long voiced concern over the price tag and refused to support the deal when it was passed in 2011 under former mayor Susan Fennell, who spoke in favour of the agreement.

The new city hall building is the subject of an ongoing $28.5-million lawsuit against the city by a local development company that alleges it was unfairly disqualified from the bidding process, that the city overpaid by “tens of millions” of dollars and that its bid was “superior.” The city denies all of the lawsuit's allegations. There are no allegations against the winning bidder in the deal, Dominus Construction, which has said it followed all rules of the bidding process.

The lawsuit by Inzola Group revealed that its bid, which council never got to see, would have given the city a slightly larger building, 140,000 square feet, with about 150 more parking spaces for about $95 million including financing.

“We paid way, way too much,” Councillor John Sprovieri told the meeting.

Councillor Pat Fortini, who for decades worked on large-scale construction projects, said it's possible that York's project is nothing like Brampton's, and that labour costs and many other design details could explain some of the wide cost difference.

Councillor Michael Palleschi's motion to ask York about its deal includes requesting details of the pricing and design features, to get a comparison.

After the motion passed, Mayor Linda Jeffrey told the Star she doesn't want Brampton taxpayers to look elsewhere and see others are getting a better deal.

“They want to know that (project costs) are comparable across the province, across North America.”