Council approves $36.7-million light rail settlement
Published Friday, September 11, 2009 3:59PM EDT
Increasing property taxes, selling off a part of Ottawa Hydro, and cutting back on construction projects are all options towards offsetting the $36.7-million settlement for the cancelled light rail project after city councillors approved the deal at an emergency meeting Friday morning.
The settlement will close the book on a $217-million lawsuit filed by a consortium led by Siemens in response to the cancellation of a north-south rail line in late 2007.
The city treasurer will now report back to council with a number of options for paying off the multi-million dollar bill. One option involves a special levy that would be paid by property owners; another is to sell off part of Hydro Ottawa.
It will be weeks before taxpayers will know how the settlement will affect their tax bill.
The ordeal has already cost the city $2.5 million in legal fees. That's in addition to $55 million that was spent on the project before the city decided to back out of the deal.
"I can't justify $37 million for zero. And zero, Mr. Mayor, 'zero means zero,'" Coun. Diane Deans said prior to the vote.
"We're getting zero for $37 million for a bad decision of this council. I can't vote for it; I reject it. I think taxpayers of this city reject it and I think they should be outraged."
But not everyone shares that sentiment. Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien defended the deal on Thursday, arguing the cost of cancelling the light rail plan is a better financial decision than going through with the project.
Now, council has a new vision for transit in the capital, which includes light rail from Tunney's Pasture to Blair Road, as well as a downtown tunnel.
"The value that we're going to be receiving from having a far broader, more accessible, extensive, rapid transit system I think is of greater value than the cost of this settlement," said Coun. Alex Cullen.
Taxpayers, who are on the hook for the bill, were warned during the last municipal election that cancelling the project would likely result in a lawsuit.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee