Ma­ley ‘a road to nowhere’ — coun­cil­lor


Michael Vagnini has penned a guest col­umn for the Sud­bury Star out­lin­ing his dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the Ma­ley Drive ex­ten­sion project.

“The rea­son I’m bring­ing it for­ward is be­cause they did an up­date last week and I feel com­pelled to be talk­ing about how I per­ceive what has gone on with Ma­ley Drive,” Vagnini told The Star on Tues­day. “I have al­ways said the vote was 12-1; there­fore, Ma­ley Drive was a dead is­sue be­cause the ma­jor­ity won, but I be­lieve it’s go­ing to be a project we will re­gret some­where down the line.”

In the let­ter, Vagnini says he was the only coun­cil­lor to vote against the project, de­spite the fact he was pres­sured to vote in favour of it.

“I felt a lot of pres­sure to change my vote prior to the project be­ing voted on,” he said. “We have to fix what we have be­fore we start build­ing new things that we prob­a­bly can’t main­tain down the line. There was a lot of pres­sure for me to have a yes vote.”

Vagnini said he was told he would be held li­able for things Tom Price, one of his ad­vi­sors, was say­ing in pub­lic. Price was a vo­cal op­po­nent of Ma­ley Drive and or­ga­nized a se­ries of pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sions dur­ing which he out­lined per­ceived detri­ments of the project.

Vagnini said there was pres­sure to present a uni­fied con­sen­sus when Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau vis­ited. Trudeau fa­mously vis­ited Sud­bury in April 2016 to an­nounce the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for the project.

“I was not made aware of the prime min­is­ter com­ing to Sud­bury un­til shortly be­fore the visit. I was led to be­lieve that the fund­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could only be al­lo­cated to the Ma­ley Drive ex­ten­sion,” Vagnini wrote. “When a re­porter asked the prime min­is­ter, why he would ap­prove money for a ‘con­tentious’ project, he in­di­cated the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was only there to grant the funds and how those funds get used was up to coun­cil.”

Vagnini said he be­lieves the project is a white ele­phant that will cost much more than pro­jected.

“I’m of the be­lief that this road is, right now, a road to nowhere,” he said. “Un­til phase two and three are built — I don’t be­lieve we’ll see that in our life­time — it re­ally doesn’t con­nect to any­thing.”

In fact, he said nei­ther phase two nor phase three has been costed out yet. The project is a mas­sive in­vest­ment. It has a to­tal cost of $80.1 mil­lion for phase one, which is split three ways. The mu­nic­i­pal, provin­cial and fed­eral govern­ments each con­trib­uted $26.7 mil­lion for phase one; how­ever, the city is re­spon­si­ble for top­ping up the rest. AECOM pro­jected an­nual op­er­at­ing costs of $170,000 to cover win­ter main­te­nance.

“I am led to be­lieve the es­ti­mated to­tal cost with over­runs will be be­tween $120 mil­lion to $150 mil­lion, far in ex­cess of the ap­proved cost,” Vagnini wrote in his col­umn. “The project was stated as be­ing needed to show ‘good faith’ for big news that would be com­ing from the min­ing sec­tor. The only big news from that sec­tor so far has been shrink­age and noth­ing re­lated to need for the project.”


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