A heated debate erupted at city council Monday night over the proposed roundabout at the Charlottetown Airport.
Coun. Terry Bernard, chair of public works, was furious over comments made by three other councillors in a recent Guardian story.
Couns. Jason Coady, Danny Redmond and Mitchell Tweel publicly questioned the process over the fact that the city is spending $500,000, one-third of the cost, of building a roundabout at the Brackley Point Road-Sherwood Road intersection.
Council agreed by consensus in a committee of the whole meeting (not open to the public or media) but did not pass a public resolution.
During the December public meeting on Monday night, Coady and Bernard went toe to toe, often shouting at each other, over whether proper process was followed.
Bernard explained that the provincial government contacted the city and asked if it was ready to proceed with the roundabout project next year if the province and airport came in as equal funding partners.
The project will cost $1.5 million with the three partners footing an equal amount.
Mayor Clifford Lee brought the matter up during the committee of the whole meeting and the consensus was to proceed.
However, councillors like Coady, Redmond and Tweel felt $500,000 was better spent on developing the city’s new water source.
Coady took exception to Bernard accusing him of not understanding the process.
“You still didn’t pass a resolution to say that we are going to commit money from the taxpayers in 2013 for the project so you didn’t follow proper process,’’ Coady yelled at Bernard. “Don’t put it back on me.’’
When Bernard shot back that Coady didn’t understand the budget process, Coady interrupted him: “Oh, I understand how it works. You’ve got to understand how it works. As long as you get what you want and go out in public and say we’re going to have a roundabout everyone is happy but if we have $500,000 why don’t we sit around the table and discuss where we want to put it?
“We’ve already committed to it in the 2013 budget, Count. Bernard. We don’t have an option to say where we want that money to go.’’
Bernard then told Coady that it was Lee who brought it to committee of the whole and that the $500,000 is taxpayers money, not his.
“City council will say where it’s going to be spent and that was discussed in committee of the whole. You were there,’’ Bernard said to Coady. “You don’t like the results? Too bad. That’s how it works. The province wanted to know if we were in for 2013.’’
When Coady went to respond, Bernard continued, his voice rising: “Don’t accuse me that it’s my money. Don’t be saying it’s my project and I want to run out and announce it. The province made this happen. It’s the province that made the announcement, not me.’’
The announcement was made during a press conference at the airport. The city was represented by Lee and Deputy Mayor Stu MacFadyen, subbing for Bernard who was out of province.
While Redmond and Tweel said the announcement came as a surprise to council, Bernard said council was told in the committee of the whole meeting that the press conference was the province’s call, not the city’s.
The project was originally scheduled to go ahead in 2014 or 2015, pending federal infrastructure money moving in 2014. It is also ranked below the proposed Vogue Optical roundabout project.
The airport project is proceeding ahead of schedule because the money is there now whereas the Vogue Optical project still hinges on federal money, unless the businesses in the area want to jump is as an equal funding partner like the airport did in this case.
Bernard said doing the project next year will save the city at least $1 million of Build Canada funding.