By Philippa von Ziegenweidt
(WINDSOR, ON) – I wrote to Glenn Ackerley, the lawyer appointed as Fairness Advisor in the process that led to the site on County Road 42 being declared the winner for the new hospital.
For the record, I gave Rick Spencer a call several weeks ago. As I explain further, he was the consulting engineer for both shortlisted sites. I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what he wrote in his letter and he was kind enough to sit down with me to explain the background to his thinking.
He is of the personal opinion that there isn’t another site anywhere in Windsor as well-suited to a hospital, from an engineer’s point of view, as the GEM site. He lives in Lakeshore, and claims the travel distance is no further for residents east of Windsor than it is to the County Road 42 site.
His enthusiasm for the site was a bit of a disappointment to me because, as you are aware, CAMPP has been consistent in calling for a site within the urban core. And by urban core, we ideally had something more central in mind.
However, I could see his point. After all, the site is located in one of Windsor’s six designated development areas, and is well-serviced by road as well as by Transit Windsor.
A comparison of just these two locations clearly demonstrates the financial advantage of intensification, as recommended by Windsor’s own Official Plan, as well as Ontario’s Planning Policy.
Since Council is the steward of the municipal purse that will be on the hook for the millions of dollars in additional costs not covered by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, if the County Road 42 site is approved, I think it’s only appropriate that you see my questions too.
I know how important it is to Council to hold the line on taxes. Many of you ran your election campaigns on promises to stay frugal. Because of this, I am hopeful that you, like CAMPP, will also seek clarification about the way these costs were dealt with.
I’m sure you will also want assurance about the integrity of the process to determine which of the two shortlisted sites will provide the lowest cost, and more importantly, the best value, to your constituents, as well as their children; quite possibly, long after you have left your council seats.
Not only is our new hospital supposed to serve us for many years to come, but it appears we will be paying for it, via P3 financing, over a term that might be just as long.
For such an important decision, we need assurance that it is done right.
Of course it’s too soon yet to expect a reply from Mr Ackerley, but I will let you know if/when he gets back to me.
The following is the letter written to Glenn Ackerley by Philippa von Ziegenweidt
Dear Mr Ackerley,
I know that you, as Fairness Advisor, are familiar with the mega-hospital site selection criteria, including the wording of criterion #25 on servicing:
Site should have capacity to support the Facility. Electrical, water, sewer, gas and other services should be in place now or by the time construction is scheduled to start. There are special considerations for plumbing and electrical systems in health care facilities. Access to two feeds for electrical and water should be available to the Site.
For me, it was surprising to discover, following our group’s Freedom of Information request, that the O’Keefe site on County Road 42 is far from ready to service a hospital. It lacks both the prerequisite water and electricity capacity, yet this didn’t preclude the site from scoring 70% (28 out of 40 points) on this criterion.
In a January 25, 2016 letter, Rick Spencer, the Consulting Engineer to both shortlisted sites quoted the following from his original reports used for the RFP:
The second bullet is also confirmed in the Lauzon Parkway EA study for County Road 42.
Furthermore, the same EA study quantifies the cost of upgrades to this road at $25.7 million in 2013 dollars.
The EA study describes the scope of the work included in this figure. Please notice that hydro and new municipal costs are not included.
The bike lanes which are promised in criterion 20 aren’t mentioned. It is difficult to know at this stage to what extent they will increase this cost.
There is one final extract that I find particularly disturbing, because it states in engineering-speak what Mr Spencer also wrote on page 4 of his letter. Namely, the condition of County Road 42 is nowhere near as good as Lauzon Parkway, Tecumseh Road East, and even Jefferson Avenue; the three roads that lead to the other shortlisted hospital site.
2. Two Road Frontage
Mr Spencer’s letter highlights something else that strikes me as inconsistent, namely the two road frontage required by criterion #21.
The Site must have more than one main entrance route in case a secondary access route is required.
Mr Spencer’s report confirms that the so-called GEM site has access via Tecumseh and Lauzon, yet it only scored 80% (32 out of 40) on this criterion, while the O’Keefe site, with its inferior roads as noted above, scored a full 100%.
I wonder if the Site Selection Committee considered Catherine Street to be too small to serve as frontage. However, Mr Spencer noted that it is in fact classified as a full collector road.
What I am hoping to get is clarification from you on how you, in your capacity as Fairness Advisor, consider it fair that:
- The costs of bringing sufficient hydro capacity to the O’Keefe site and the cost of rebuilding County Road 42 (collectively running in the tens of millions of dollars, and more than four times the land acquisition cost) are not included in the cost of the site for the phase 2 scoring, but instead simply passed to Windsor’s taxpayers, given that the quantitative scoring of the shortlisted sites concluded that the O’Keefe site was the cheaper of the two, and
- The frontage of the GEM site was considered inferior to that of the O’Keefe site in the qualitative scoring, given the differences in road quality confirmed by Mr. Spencer, and the fact that both sites have frontage of at least two roads.
I’m sure you will agree how important it is that the public have assurance that the evaluation process was conducted fairly and with integrity. As regards stewardship of the public purse, we need assurance that the site selected for the region’s new hospital represents the best value for money, after all the facts are taken into consideration.
I put my questions to Krista Walkey, Stantec’s Consultant, on February 3 and 8, after speaking briefly with her. She asked me to put my questions to her in an email.
I also wrote to Thom Hunt, Windsor’s City Planner, on February 7.
Neither of them replied.
I sincerely hope you won’t also ignore my questions. If you feel you cannot respond, for whatever reason, I would be grateful if you would at least pass my questions on to somebody who will write back to me.
Philippa von Ziegenweidt