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Olympic village bills keep piling up for city of Vancouver

June 16th, 2009 · 33 Comments

Sorry, I’m a bit behind on posting this, but here’s the story Rod Mickleburgh and I had in the Globe today on the mounting bills for Southeast False Creek. This comes from city manager Penny Ballem’s report that came out late Monday, where she tried to round up the total costs for all the city parts of the development (as opposed to the $750-million loan that the city is giving Millennium Development Corp. to finish off the private-condo project).

You’ll notice that numbers on the total bill differ in different stories out there in media land. That’s partly because it’s still difficult for all of us (and even city staff, I think) to figure out all the different related costs, what the original estimates were, and what the current bill is. (The $15 million extra needed for the social housing, whose cost jumped from $95 to $110 million, was actually outlined in a previous report, for example.)

What people should remember is that some of the money being spent by the city may look as though it’s Olympics-related. However, the city had always planned to develop that big parcel of land in SEFC, and that always meant it was going to have to spend some money on providing all kinds of things for the area: roads, clean-up, walkways, community services.

The question that we still don’t have an answer to is how much extra got spent to make it really, really nice for the Olympics, to be a showcase for Vancouver, and how much would have been spent in any case. I’d love to hear from city staff on this, using whatever names you wish, but it does feel at times like one of those reno projects that got out of hand.

Sure, let’s put on the fancy door handles and, since we’re spending money anyway, let’s tear out the main floor bathroom, etc etc.

(By the way, for those of you who think there’s something wrong with me that I would be filing on this story while travelling in Europe, two answers: 1. I’ve been pursuing this part of the SEFC spending for quite a while and had hoped to be able to file on it before I left. As it turned out, the answers came a few days after I left, but the story was too interesting to drop just because I was thousands of miles away. 2. It’s kind of fun to file stories while on the road. I interviewed Penny Ballem and wrote this while sitting in a small bar in Yrieux, near Limoges, which had the only working Internet connection in town and a friendly bar owner.)

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