Friday, May 7, 2010

Float your boat

The best solvency test for a project is whether or not the private sector wants to invest in it. Although the whitewater project sounds exciting I question some of the proposal. The hydroelectrical facility seems viable, and the pedestrian bridge would divert traffic from the dangerous train bridge, but the whitewater concept sounds iffy. Where are the people, and their cash, who first proposed this project?

In today's SP article (May 7/10) Mr. Neufeld of Saskatoon Light and Power said the feasibility study addresses concerns of safety and that the weir area would be safer as the turbulence would be gone. If the weir is raised a metre or two, is that still the case? The whitewater project would be designed for kayakers and surfers. Yet Saskatoon residents are continually warned to stay out of the river because of the current and in fact the river has postings warning people of the dangers of the river current. Does the study talk about the liability to the city as a result creating a recreation venue that could result in harm to users or the public?

As with everything else, $65 million will soon become a $100 million and be added to the ever-increasing debt load of the local taxpayer. There may come a point when the city really needs something and we will find we are out of cash and credit.

Should something like this go to a referendum? Given the dollars spent on studies the cost of a referendum would be cheap.


  1. Well Mistress, when I read the article I was even more interested in this project. Finally a civic worker who looks at how to improve my recreational venues and get some return from it. This project would actually make money for the city unlike all the rest of the Riverbank projects. Museum/River Landing if only they had a component of return this one has the potential of achieving.

    As for the Kayaking/surfing idea maybe this will keep those Kayakers out of the civic pools and and away from my swimming lane.

    Would closing the walking path on the Train bridge be part? I love that bridge it has one of the best views of the downtown, I would hate to see it go.

    As for the cost hell I would rather pay for this then that Museum I will never use, well except for the public washrooms they provide.

  2. Grizz
    Am I assuming correctly the "museum" you refer to is the Gallery at River Landing? If the old numbers from the Mendels present location are correct and sustain themselves at the new location there will cosistantly be more people using the Gallery than the will be Kayaking the white water portion of the wier redevelopement. I always enjoy your comments and interesting points of view but in this case I am a bit disappointed in your closing paragraph where you seem to be invoking a one or the other scenerio. I don't think there has to always be losers to create winners. I think we should try to achieve win, win situations when ever and where ever possible as we move this city forward lets create as many diverse attractions as we can to encourage people, particularly young people to locate here.

  3. Terry,
    Don't get me wrong I'm ok with the Gallery where ever it may end up. As long as there are washrooms for me to use on my long runs. I do think there is room for way more development on the river.

    I did find the news reports interesting when talking to Susan Lamb from the MVA. Her first concern wasn't an erosion of natural habitat or anything regarding the river bank but the "COSTS!!!" for cleaning up the sludge from the weir when it is excavated. You would think an environmentalist she appears to be would be grateful someone will finally be cleaning up the mess.

    Now this brings me to the fact that all the crap has been in the river for so many years how is it that when the work is proposed it somehow becomes a concern? Shouldn't the MVA and for that matter DFO and DofEnvi. been concerned about what is the bottom of the river from day one.

    If this brings young and old down town all the better.

  4. Elaine...your first line of this post does a lot to devalue your opinion on this.

    I haven't heard of too many private investors lining up to invest in municipal parks or sidewalks...or hell even roads. It doesn't stop those from being valuable parts of our city.

    One of the most, if not the most, attractive thing about our city is the river and it is not something that our municipal government preserved and has a result the river walk ways and the area around the weird are full of people....but I don't think an private developer would have stepped up and built that attraction. It's a problem with right-leaning people who can't see past their ideological bent. Yes, the market is a good tool, but there are just something that it can't account for, nor is it at all beneficial for a private developer to build.

    The white water park could be a wonderful attraction that could keep young people in this city....something that is great for everyone. It could give this city a cool feel that can be sorely lacking due to everyone who is just worried about a pot hole or two and afraid of any big, intersting ideas.

    I say if the city is going to put in the work to create a hydro station, they may as well completely re-do the weir and include the white water park. Maybe we can start changing our reputation from a conservative, small city, to being an exciting place.

    Here is a great article about a similar project in Montreal....

  5. Oops...that bit at the start:

    "One of the most, if not the most, attractive thing about our city is the river and it is not something that our municipal government preserved and has developed"

    should read:

    "One of the most attractive things about our city is the river and it is something that our municipal government preserved and developed"

    I'm sure if private developers had their way they would have sold off the river bank years ago...robbing our city of one of our finest features....

  6. Anon above,

    Part of the problem with the left leaning people is they can't see beyond their ideological bend either. The city has continued to opt for projects that require public money to subsidize or entirely keep them operating. As a young person myself I would rather not build another project that is not, at the least, self-sustaining. There are many great ideas out there but enough needs to be enough at some point (we are soon going to be contributing more money to subsidize a new art gallery while at same time increasing the costs on the Meewasin facilities when they expand their operation).

    The left-leaning, especially in Saskatchewan, seem to believe that all must be public and maintain that any sort of privatization is the work of the devil. The result is a distinct lack of industry investing jobs in the province. Thus lower wages and less work for young people. Believe it or not, Saskatchewan is not the greatest place for young people and having an extra park or two is not going to solve that. It isn't the amenities that will keep or attract young people it is the opportunity. Take for example Olympic Park in Calgary, it attracts many young people to spend their discretionary income there, however, I would challenge you to find anyone who claims to be drawn or anchored in Calgary due to it.

    You want young people to stay in the city quit saddling them with expenses. Personally, I just got notification of $3,568 from the City for having to replace my pipes this year, saw my property taxes increase yet again, and worryingly anticipating the NDPs return to power next election so I can see my income taxes go up.

    Please, if the project is not self sustainable don't pursue it at this point. We as a city are broke.

  7. Thank you Anon 7:57 a.m. for your comments, which I agree with 100%.

  8. It should be pointed out that the majority on Council for the past number (6 at least) have been "right leaning" - led by a Mayor who has governed over huge increases in spending and taxes. Additionally, we have some the lowest municipal property taxes in Canada.

    I'd suggest reading Richard Florida's book "Who's your City" and then re-visit your comments around amenities not being an attraction to young professionals.

    A quick summary of the argument laid out by Florida is - Yes, opportunity has a large part in attracting young professionals, but a city also needs to engage them with a vibrant set of amenities/culture/nightlife.

  9. Sean S,

    With regard to your last paragraph it should not be the city council or government that is needed to create those amenities/culture/nightlife. That is what the Mistress was originally trying to get at I believe. We have enough on our agenda as a city that we need not add one more money draining project to the total. The Mistress noted that this is in all likelihood a reality as no private company was willing to invest. Usually that is a sign that it is not a profitable venture.

    I completely agree with your point about a city needing to engage young people, however, your post reaffirms my suspicions about the perils of Saskatoon, and more largely Saskatchewan: that the government must be omnipresent in everything that is done.

    Rather than continue spend money on projects we believe will engage younger people why not quit draining the public coffers and let the private sector help out a little bit?

    From a personal perspective, this seems like such frivolous project. With our climate we may see 3 or 4 months of use out of this thing, will cost an arm and a leg to get into (ie not very publicly available) and be a financial drain for the other 8 months it is sitting around idle or being repaired.

    There are smart people in the private sector if not one company in this business thought they could make a water park work on the riverbank (prime real estate) why on earth should we have confidence that a municipal government and some city employees can design, build and run this project efficiently?

  10. As for your point on city council, I'm not sure how to explain it other than to say that Atchinson is doing everything in his power to try to leave his 'legacy' with the city. I see it as an ego thing and character flaw.

    The left-leaning council is soon coming, one only needs to look at the NDP and how they have been involved in certain wards in the last few elections. Their support, funding and man power has been instrumental in getting a couple members on council (and nearly a few more).

    I commend you on running this past election and glad we have young people willing to have their voices heard, even those with differing political opinions ;)

  11. There are certain things that private interests won't build - you could argue that an art gallery, whitewater park, etc... are some of those (I'm not speaking for or against either mind you). There is a time and a place for government to step in, but I agree it shouldn't be all the time.

    What we would benefit from in this City is a more substantive conversation between City Admin and private developers. Sit everyone around a table (say regarding the N. downtown) and lay out what the City would like to see and have developers do the same.

    I bet a broad vision that has a chance of actually being seen through could be hammered out fairly quickly. Then put the mechanisms in place to guide the process (i.e. something arms length of Council so we don't bog down the process with politics) and get going.

    As for the NDP being deeply involved in civic politics, I laugh every time I see that myth perpetuated...


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