Coming to Halifax council: Nova Centre payments, low-income transit pass, Khyber sale

There will likely be some lively debate when Halifax Regional Council is set to meet this Tuesday. Global News

Councillors are back for another meeting of Halifax Regional Council this Tuesday and it promises to produce at least one lively debate.

Here are some of the things that are worth keeping an eye on.

Nova Centre payments

The Nova Centre is finally open to the public, several years behind schedule but Halifax council has unfinished businesses with the convention centre it still needs to deal with.

Up for debate on Tuesday is a recommendation that council approve a payment of $301,500 to cover costs incurred for the convention centre during the 2016/2017 fiscal year and a payment of up to 50 per cent of the costs incurred during the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

An estimate is not yet available for what that expense might look like — but it’s the number behind those payments that are likely to be of concern to council.

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They are part of a 2010 cost-sharing agreement with the province of Nova Scotia that will see them split the centre’s operating and capital costs 50-50.

The funds will come out of a convention centre reserve fund that was established by the municipality to pay for what was expected to be a shortfall in operating costs of the building for the first few years as office space filled up and the hotel was finished.

WATCH: Halifax’s Nova Centre lands luxury hotel

Click to play video: 'Halifax’s Nova Centre lands luxury hotel' Halifax’s Nova Centre lands luxury hotel
Halifax’s Nova Centre lands luxury hotel – Mar 15, 2018

But the report indicates that the outlook is much worse for the city than what they originally projected.

In December 2010, when estimates were first produced, it was expected that the shortfall during the first year of operation would be $1.9 million, a figure almost entirely covered by their reserve fund.

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Instead, a downturn in office rentals and incurred costs means that the shortfall is projected to be $3.5 million, and while that will be covered by the reserve fund, it only gets worse from there.

In 2010, the city expected their convention centre reserve account to stay in the black for at least the first 10 years of operation. Year 10 would’ve seen the fund at a surplus $5.89 million.

The revised figures now indicate the city believes that their reserve account in year 10 will have a deficit of $17.8 million.

That’s a swing of roughly $23.7 million, so expect this one to produce a lively discussion.

READ MORE: Halifax approves permanent low-income bus pass, doubles application limit

Expansion of the low-income transit pass

Council is set to consider a recommendation that would see the spaces in the municipality’s low-income transit pass increase from 1000 to 2000 in 2019.

The program allows qualified applicants to purchase monthly transit passes for 50 per cent of the regular price.

Council will also consider a motion to modify the criteria of the program — allowing a letter from social workers or ISANS to be used to qualify for the program.

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According to a report from city staff, it took less than two months for the 1000 spaces to fill up this year and there were approximately 140 people on the waitlist by the end of 2017.

READ MORE: Halifax to sell Khyber Building for below market value

Setting a date for a public hearing on Khyber

The saga around the Khyber building may move one step closer to concluding.

The motion will see Halifax council, who currently owns the building at 1588 Barrington Street, decide on a date for a public hearing on the sale of the historic property.

Pending the result of that hearing, the city would then authorize the sale of the Khyber for $1.00, well below market value, to the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society.

The society says that if they do purchase the building they will transform it into an arts hub.

However, a lot of work still needs to be done on the building after tenants were forced out of the property in 2014 over safety concerns, including asbestos.

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