Council reverses committee’s decision
Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini is very concerned the optimization plan is rearing its ugly head again.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc asked his peers to reconsider a motion he had previously brought forward to the emergency services committee on April 17.
In his motion, Leduc asked that staff be directed “to work with the Greater Sudbury Police Service in its facilities study, which will include the viability of a shared headquarters and report back to council.”
As Leduc noted in his motion, the police service identified a comprehensive needs assessment of its facilities as one of their deliverables for 2019.
“The City of Greater Sudbury’s community safety department (fire and paramedic services) is also facing challenges at its current location at the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre,” Leduc noted in his motion. “In order to achieve economies of scale, it would be appropriate for the Greater Sudbury Police Service and the City of Greater Sudbury’s community safety department to collaborate and co-ordinate efforts for a comprehensive headquarters facility needs assessment, which could potentially lead to a combined police, fire and paramedic headquarters complex.”
Leduc’s motion was rejected at the emergency services committee; however, he asked that it be pulled Tuesday and the majority of councillors ended up voting in favour of a report, despite vehement opposition from Vagnini and Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier.
As Leduc pointed out, a report on the amalgamation of services would not cost money and would not divide the community. He also said there is precedence. Barrie has a similar structure, Leduc said, which has worked well.
“The outlying areas are going to remain the same, they’re still going to have their services; we’re trying to bring everything under one roof to make it more cost-effective for Sudbury and for residents, all residents of Sudbury,” Leduc said.
Vagnini said the motion resembled one of the central components of the failed optimization plan, which divided the city. He was visibly frustrated at some points during Tuesday’s discussion and argued that bringing forward this motion is like opening a healing wound.
“What it did is create a great divide between the core of the city and the outlying areas,” Vagnini said. “What is the purpose behind the motion?”
Leduc said council has a fiduciary responsibility to look at ways of operating in a cost-efficient manner.
“If we build one station that houses everybody, then we have the potential of eliminating buildings, not jobs, but eliminating buildings that are costing taxpayers,” he said.
Vagnini was unconvinced and said the idea of closing stations resembles optimization too much. He reminded his colleagues the plan was unanimously rejected in 2017.
“This really, really concerns me; I don’t know if, at this time, we want to go into this environment when we have so many other issues that are on the table,” Vagnini said. “I don’t know if the timing of this motion is appropriate with respect to everything else we have going on.”
Montpellier said Tuesday the city has a $66-million asset in the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre and it would not make sense to discontinue using it. He said the centre has recently been renovated and upgraded. He also pointed out the federal government just announced $1 million in funding for a therapeutic leisure pool, which would be housed at the centre. Without an anchor tenant like EMS, Montpellier said the project could be in jeopardy.
Leduc got some support from Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, who said the motion would allow the chiefs of the three emergency services to meet and discuss how amalgamating headquarters would impact each of their services. For one thing, it would cut down on the number of kilometres crews travel to and from the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre – a minimum of 280,000 km annually, Lapierre noted.
“There are no efficiencies in that,” he said.
Lapierre also said the bulk of 911 calls come from the New Sudbury and urban core areas.
Centralizing administrative offices and training locations could also benefit EMS, Lapierre, a paramedic himself, noted. He said the report is not advocating for any changes to service or staffing levels.
“I’m hoping we can allow this so at least they can have a chat,” Lapierre said.
Vagnini, Montpellier and Mayor Brian Bigger all voted against Leduc’s motion; however, everyone else voted in favour of it. Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti abstained from voting. Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
If we build one station that houses everybody, then we have the potential of eliminating buildings, not jobs, but eliminating buildings that are costing taxpayers