Essex County Must Step Up

Header-image-TuomiBy Robert Tuomi

It turns out there is about $300 million not accounted for in the city’s new tax levy to pay for the mega-hospital. Windsor taxpayers will also suffer the added indignity of paying for all the services the new medical centre will need, such as roads, sewers, and water.

Fortunately, not everyone is overlooking this.

John Smith, a commenter on a column in the Windsor Star on April 27, hits the nail on the head quite smartly when he wrote, “If people outside the city really want to contribute to the new location then I suggest that when it’s time to pay for the $300 million or more in infrastructure costs to develop that bean field that they also step up to the plate and pay.”

So far, there has been no movement by county politicians to pay, as Smith calls it, their “fair share” for the regional hospital.

Smith also adds a valid point about Windsor taxpayers having no real say or even a council discussion about the location. It has been railroaded through causing Smith to charge that the councillors and mayor have “failed us.”

He is right.

Only Ward 4 councillor Chris Holt seems cognizant that the removal of the city’s hospitals from the most densely populated area of the region will be damaging to the core of a once vibrant city. He voted against the irony of imposing a tax on rate payers for a project that will cost taxpayers plenty.

This includes increasing the city’s already high industrial taxes that curiously seem to be dissuading investors from building factories in the city. Without new plants to compensate for the many lost ones, Windsor is seeing its industrial tax base erode. As this continues, the weight of running the city becomes a greater burden on those remaining.

“Apparently,” adds Smith, “our Mayor and Councilors in Windsor have washed their hands in having any input other than financing our portion through a new levy.”

County politicians should be well aware of the deal they are getting.

In a November 11 post on hospital coverage in the local paper, defeated Ward 1 council aspirant Daniel Ableser called on the county to split the bill. Ableser reasoned the county, “… needs to contribute their fair share to the infrastructure costs.”

To him, the location in the farmer’s bean field was, “… selected because it is ideal to the entire county at the cost of being the most ideal location for Windsor.”

If Windsor is, as Ableser suggests, paying a cost, the county should at least acknowledge what has happened. But Ableser doesn’t stop there.

He argues the new hospital will hollow out the core and that servicing the site is, “… effectively a cost for Windsor to, in the first instance, benefit the county, by putting the hospital closer to them.”

Ableser recommends county residents pay, “… 50% of the up-front cost for the road, sewer and infrastructure improvements.”

Recognizing Windsor might benefit from the development charges paid by anyone who later develops land near the hospital, Ableser would like to see Windsor share some of that money with the county based on an, “… apportionment of their contribution.”

That could be fair but, so far, the county hasn’t been seen supporting the idea. Why not?

Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.

About the Author

Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi

3 Comments on "Essex County Must Step Up"

  1. CityGuy2 | 6 May 2016 at 08:10 |

    Good article Robert. To be honest, if I were a county politician, had no input in where the new hospital went, I’d also be sitting back holding my tongue and locking up my money. Windsor has once again gone it alone, and is once again failing at the effort. The citizens should expect no less, look at who they continue to put in office. Mr. Coulter presents some interesting figures, did the committee even look at expenditures from other similar projects? Where’s the transparency in all this? It would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dire.

  2. Robert an excellent article, the Ontario government should be paying for the cost of the new roads and all elements for this Mega hospital. I’m sure the county looks at Windsor saying to themselves if Windsor can payout $21 million for these FINA games, they sure can afford the new roads to the Mega hospital. The way we are having disputes regarding this hospital I do not think the Liberal Wynn government will approve of Essex county getting this Mega hospital. The new tax levy for this hospital imposed to us by our ineffective mayor Dilkens and city council will be spent on further uneventful swim meets. The only city councillor thinking this through is councillor Holt, he agrees with most taxpayers why pay for something that is not yet approved by the government.

  3. James Coulter | 3 May 2016 at 16:24 |

    This was my presentation to Council at the “Special Meeting”. Since then we have learned that Transit Windsor would have to spend $2 million for new buses and then $2 million/year to service the proposed hospital site.

    It galls me that the site selection process did not account for costs like this to the municipality.

    Good evening Mr. Mayor and Council.

    I would like to preface my comments by saying I am very concerned for the future of this city – if I wasn’t I would not be here.

    Oakville’s Trafalgar Memorial Hospital opened last year. It is 1.6 million square feet, the same size as proposed for Windsor-Essex. It cost $2 billion to build and the thirty-year, contract value is $2.7 billion.

    The Town of Oakville provided $130 million at the time of substantial completion. The hospital, Halton Healthcare Services, put in $270 million and a Capital Campaign raised a further $60 million.

    It required $460 million local dollars to build that hospital.

    While the provincial government pays for the planning and design and 90% of the eligible construction costs – the hospital must pay for all of the non-essential construction costs and all of the clinical equipment and furnishings.

    The proposed, Windsor-Essex Hospitals System has many more components than just a single acute-care hospital. Based on the price of the new Oakville hospital, their estimate seems very low. Will our hospital come back later and ask taxpayers for more money? How much money will the hospital have to raise from its community partners and donors?

    There will be other costs that will come from taxpayer’s pockets too. Like the $250 million on new infrastructure to make the proposed site viable. Provincial policy and even our own Official Plan prescribe smart growth and urban intensification – that is to promote cost-effective development patterns and minimize land consumption and servicing costs.

    Attempts have been made to justify this expense because the land south of the airport is part of the city’s 20 year plan.

    When those lands were annexed the region was enjoying above average growth and our manufacturing economy was sound.

    The justification to expand the city no longer holds as the Ministry of Finance’s most recent population projections show the Essex area as a region of little future growth and the Erie-St. Clair LHIN even predicts a population decrease across its jurisdiction.

    Furthermore, Windsor is rife with vacant and underutilized land. There are over 500 documented sites – four of them were large enough to be considered by the hospital’s site selection committee.

    By opening up the annexed area at this time, with our current surplus of developable land we will only make matters worse. What will that cost taxpayers?

    The proposed exurban site will mean Transit Windsor will have to expand current routes to provide service. What will that cost?

    Fire, policing and EMS tasking must be considered and these costs will likely rise too. In Niagara Region – the annual land ambulance budget had to increase by $3 million once local ER’s were converted to urgent care centres.
    To recap: the hospital is asking for $200 million from regional tax-payers but we have no idea if their estimate is valid nor if they will have to raise more money for costs not covered by the province.

    Then there are the costs to Windsor tax-payers to make the proposed, exurban site viable; $250 million for infrastructure; an unknown amount to expand transit service; another unknown amount for fire, police and ambulance servicing.

    Meanwhile the city has an infrastructure maintenance deficit of over $300 million and we continue to service hundreds of vacant properties.
    The cost to this city will be much greater than the $108 million that the you are voting on tonight.

    Council has made a commitment to raise money for this project. However, at this time, I ask you to defer approving the levy until a valid estimate of the proposed hospital cost is provided and all other costs to city and county tax-payers are analyzed and presented to give a clear picture of the full financial impact of this proposal before we collect one, extra, tax dollar.
    I have no dispute with building better health-care but we must find a smarter, more sustainable way to do it.
    Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

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