Sherbrooke taxpayers will have to pay $1 million to completely redo the roof of an arena that’s part of the privatized Roland-Dussault Multisport Centre.
Work on the Eugène-Lalonde Arena needs to be completed by the fall, and the consortium involved has washed its hands of any design flaws or roof drainage problems. Now, the municipality is suing Axor, the corporation that won the P3 contract.
The legal action and new repairs are only the latest in a painful saga for the citizens of Sherbrooke that began when their sports centre was privatized.
The numerous pitfalls have included delays and $36,000 spent on emergency snow removal from the roof. The city is also suing Axor for the cost of work to prevent the roof from collapsing.
These snowballing problems from the award of the P3 contract come as no surprise to the president of the union representing outside municipal workers, CUPE 2729.
“From the start we have said that P3s are more expensive, there is no transparency for the public, no flexibility in the terms and no risk sharing. It is always the public that pays the bills; the consortium is never responsible for anything,” said Rénald Dubé, CUPE 2729 president.
This lack of accountability is evident from Axor’s recent behaviour. While declaring its own innocence, it is suing the two companies hired to carry out the plans for the centre.
In the eyes of many experts, this P3 demonstrates that the deals do not benefit citizens. Professor Peter J. Hamel of the INRS already arrived at this conclusion in 2007: “… it cannot be claimed that P3s are more advantageous for municipalities and their taxpayers.”
In fact, P3 contracts offer little flexibility, and the slightest design error can become a nightmare for the public partner.
The City of Sherbrooke is experiencing that now with its sports centre, which has several major problems. A design flaw in the roof drains has already prompted the city to sue Axor twice, adding legal fees to repair costs.
“If the city had built the arena as a public project, the drains would have been installed properly and the legal costs would have been avoided,” concluded Dubé.