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Police chief agrees Second Line headquarters is a 'money pit'

Admission made during Monday night budget deliberations
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After five hours of budget deliberations, Sault Ste. Marie City Council decided late Monday to call it a night and resume the fiscal decisions on Tuesday.

Councillors heard presentations Monday from Police Chief Hugh Stevenson, Dr. Jennifer Loo from Algoma Public Health, Mike Nadeau from District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board and heads of all city departments.

City officials were originally prepared to try to set the 2022 budget Monday night, but also scheduled a Tuesday meeting if needed. 

"Look, I want to continue this," said Mayor Christian Provenzano.

"I want to get this done. But I don't want to get this done at the expense of people feeling like they've had the time to properly consider it, to discuss it," the mayor said.  

At Provenzano's suggestion, however, councillors directed staff to look before Tuesday's session into how repairs to police headquarters on Second Line are being financed.

"Chief, what is the age of that building that you're in?" Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Shoemaker asked Stevenson.

"Oh, I'm going to suggest it's in the late 60s," the police chief responded.

"Would it be fair to characterize the building as a money pit?" Shoemaker asked.

"Well, yes," the chief confirmed.

Shoemaker then got Stevenson to confirm that there's an annual maintenance and repair budget for the building, but this year, an additional $210,000 was budgeted for that purpose, over and above the annual budget allocation.

"These are additions," the chief said, "that either come out of joint health and safety or employee complaints related to the heating and costing issues."

Mayor Provenzano interjected, suggesting that such complaints should be dealt with as a one-time capital request instead of being added to the levy.

"We own that building. It's part of our asset management plan," the mayor said.

"There's got to be a different way we can fund that so it doesn't go on the levy."

City staffers were asked to look at that and return with recommendations before Tuesday's meeting.

Provanzano also asked staff to look at why a levy increase was being used to add junior officers to replace senior officers who are retiring.

"As the officers retire, there will be room in the budget," the mayor said.

The budget talks will continue at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

They will be livestreamed on SooToday.