Con­ven­tion Cen­tre quag­mire

No­body seems to know how much HRM will have to pay for this mess, but ev­ery­one agrees it’ll be a lot more than we ex­pected.

The Coast - - THE CITY | OPINIONATED - BY JA­COB BOON

City coun­cil is fi­nally com­ing around to the no­tion that the Hal­i­fax Con­ven­tion Cen­tre might not be the boffo mon­ey­maker that was promised.

Hal­i­fax’s elected lead­ers be­grudg­ingly voted on Tues­day to pay an ad­di­tional $301,500 in mar­ket­ing costs the prov­ince claims we owe for set­ting up down­town’s new crown jewel.

The city also agreed to pay its share of op­er­a­tional costs for the fi­nally com­pleted con­ven­tion cen­tre, de­spite not know­ing what that num­ber will be.

Worse yet, new fi­nan­cial fig­ures brought to coun­cil are show­ing a planned $1.8-mil­lion short­fall in the city’s HCC re­serve fund has nearly dou­bled to $3.5 mil­lion. Like­wise, the $6-mil­lion sur­plus that was sup­posed to be in the bank after 10 years of con­ven­tion cen­tre op­er­a­tions has been dras­ti­cally and severely re­duced to a pro­jected $18-mil­lion deficit.

The ques­tion now for coun­cil is just how far into the red the con­ven­tion cen­tre will fall, and what’s in place to stop that from be­com­ing HRM’s bur­den to carry.

“I don’t like what’s hap­pen­ing here,” deputy mayor Waye Ma­son said at Tues­day’s meet­ing. “I have a deep and in­creas­ing fore­bod­ing right now and I don’t have a way to ad­dress that.”

Hal­i­fax had planned to pay its share of op­er­a­tional and cap­i­tal costs for the HCC out of prop­erty taxes taken from the larger Nova Cen­tre. But the glut of down­town of­fice con­struc­tion has un­der­mined those plans. The Nova Cen­tre presently stands 70 per­cent va­cant, caus­ing an ex­treme short­fall in tax rev­enue.

Just how bad are the fi­nan­cials? Enough that coun­cil­lor Sam Austin won­dered if we can rene­go­ti­ate our deal with the prov­ince.

The Dart­mouth Cen­tre coun­cil­lor pointed out pro­vin­cial rev­enues for the HCC come from sales tax earned off con­ven­tions and aren’t im­pacted by the va­can­cies. Only HRM’s prop­erty-tax piggy bank is tak­ing a hit.

“Maybe it shouldn’t be a 50/50 split,” sug­gested Austin. “Maybe they’ll just laugh at us, say­ing ‘You signed up for this.’”

VIA TWIT­TER

In awe at the size of this lad.

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