Tuesday, March 4, 2014

FOLLOW THE MONEY

It is a question that has dogged me and many others for several years. The last time I wrote about it, I received a warning letter from the taxpayer-paid lawyer who represented Jim Thibert in his lawsuit against me. So, I'll supply actual sources.

What happened to the $2 million that the province gave to the EDTC back in 2008?

It was April. 2008 when the province's Ministry of Tourism awarded $3 million in public money to the town's Economic Development and Tourism Corporation:

"- April 17, 2008: Sandra Pupatello, provincial Liberal minister of economic 

development and trade, announces $3 million in funding for Fort Erie, 

including $2 million to the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism 

Corporation. No specifics projects were identified toward which the $2 

million would be applied. "This investment is all about giving 

Fort Erie the chance to compete not only regionally, but globally for 

investment dollars," said Pupatello."  (Source: Niagara Falls Review, May 10, 2008)


The announcement was made at a Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce Meeting at the Buffalo 

Canoe Club on April 17, 2008 by then MPP Kim Craitor. One million of the money was set 

aside to remove the east-north ramp off the QEW at Concession Road to "improve traffic flow 

and help businesses attract customers."


(Editor's Note: This is where I believe the first lies about the money occurred)


From the article:


1.)"This funding will give Fort Erie the opportunity to explore long- term economic 

goals that will create growth and jobs for our residents." (Kim Craitor)


2.) Jim Thibert, general manager of Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism 

Corporation, said the funding will go a long way to provide them with the tools to 

develop and build a "diversified economic infrastructure that will develop 

Fort Erie as a great gateway community to the Niagara region."

3.) Martin said he could not provide any further details at this time as to how the 

money will be used, but that they have "several ideas in mind."


The reason that I believe that the statements were lies was that it implied that the money 

would go towards a number of projects that would help the community. Three weeks later, the 

following announcement was made:


$ 2 Million in Public Money Headed to Track 

(from May 10, 2008 article)


Actually, the $2 million was headed to "help" in costs associated with the redevelopment of the 

Race Track into a $300 million dollar resort. The track owner, El-Ad and its subsidiary Nordic 

Gaming received the offer from the EDTC on May 9, 2008.


Less than six months later, in October, 2008, the redevelopment plan is shelved.  In an article 

in Cangamble, the writer wondered what happened to the $2 million that was given to Nordic 

Gaming by the EDTC.


The author also offers this opinion of the matter:


"I'm thinking this plan was a whim that was initiated by the Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism Corp(EDTC) shooting the crap with Nordic's management, and Nordic just went along with it, because it could help get a bigger sales price for Fort Erie Race Track, or maybe the government would be stupid enough to finance most of the project.
I'm starting to believe the EDTC and the Fort Erie mayor are either very gullible, very stupid, very corrupt, or a combination of the the three ... 
The reason I even bring up the EDTC is that they helped perpetuate this fantasy project, that was NEVER going to happen. The track could have been sold by now."

(Editor's Note: funny, this guy didn't get sued by Jim Thibert.)

So, the search for what happened to the $2 million went on. Then, in January 2009, came the announcement by Jim Thibert that the EDTC had offered to buy the track for $35 million. (Oh, and by the way, he expected the province to provide $3.2 Million towards a deposit to Nordic Gaming and El-Ad while it also holds the mortgage on the property.)  

Later in the article, it was reported that Nordic was losing $7 million per year on the track.

Back to Cangamble for a partial explanation. In a reprint of a letter by Sue Leslie, President of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association wrote that the offer to Nordic included a $2, 250,000 NON REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT.

Part of the agreement would mean that there would be 78 days of racing in the 2009 season starting the first Saturday in May.

The article went on to say that the province would have to approve using the remaining $1.5 million from the $2 million given in 2008 towards the NON REFUNDABLE down payment.

(This is where I opined that the whole thing sounded like an elaborate scheme to "buy" another season for the race track - rather than a real offer to buy. Cue another letter from the lawyer.)

So, what happened? By February 2009, Fort Erie Town Council voted to give $250K of slot revenues towards the NON REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT towards the purchase of the Fort Erie Race Track.  And in March, 2009, Jim Thibert made the announcement that the EDTC had reached an agreement with Nordic Gaming that included a "letter of intent" to purchase the race track.

"Talks between the parties appeared to reach an impasse in late February, when Nordic Gaming announced the EDTC had withdrawn its offer. The EDTC responded by saying the company had allowed a modified proposal to expire...

The EDTC has provided the company with a $2.25-million, non-refundable deposit on the deal, which allows the racing season to go ahead even if an agreement to buy the track doesn’t. 

The money for the down payment includes $1.5-million of a $2-million economic development grant the province gave the town last year. The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, an industry association which represents horse owners and trainers, contributed $500,000, while the town budgeted $250,000 toward the deposit." (Niagara Falls Review, March 12, 2009)

The EDTC had 90 days to come up with a business plans and financing to complete the sale.

In September 2009, the EDTC had worked out a deal to lease the race track. In the announcement, Jim Thibert asked for $15 million yearly from the province to keep the track going. MPP Kim Craitor supported the proposal. He also stated that leasing the track was the better way to go.

We'll leave it there for now. At least we were able to "follow the money" from the province.  It ended up in the coffers of Nordic Gaming (El-Ad) via a byzantine production directed by Jim Thibert to keep the track running for another year.

It did not go towards attracting "investment dollars" or any of the things promised by the province. In the hands of Jim Thibert of the EDTC, it went straight to the foreign track owners as tribute. While it helped save many jobs at the track, we still don't appreciate having our credibility mocked by such an elaborate ruse.



As to why I'm dredging this up now, it is quite clear that the mayor and Jim Thibert have their own agenda and that agenda does not always include the very people who, through taxes, pay their salaries and give them millions of dollars in trust.  Do we really want to have another four years of this?  While others blame the four councillors for what ails Fort Erie, here is an example of something that happened before 2010 when the balance of power on council shifted away from Martin and his minions. 

Things were going well in Fort Erie in 2002, according to a media release from the town. Jim Thibert had been on the job for about a year. 

And then the decline began. Some could say that the decline was ushered in by Jim Thibert, although that would not be accurate. Just as it is not accurate to blame four councillors for the further decline of the town.


22 comments:

  1. VERY CONCERNED CITIZENMarch 5, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    It will be interesting to see if this post prompts a thorough examination and explanation of the use of $2 million or results in another vindictive legal action against Ms Bowers, or perhaps BOTH?

    ReplyDelete
  2. As regards James Culic's latest "hit" piece: perhaps he should ask the developer if he is related to Heinz Hummel, former mayor and founding member of the Old Boys' Club. Then he should look into the story behind that piece of property e.g. how the town acme into possession of the property and the legal wrangling that went on behind the scenes. I would also submit that the developer used a manufacturer misconception as his excuse for pulling out of the development. And, the reason it has cost the town so much in legal fees regarding the Bay Beach Development is that the town acted foolishly in not listening to its people and they expressed their displeasure through legal channels, including electing councillors who would work for the people, not against them. So much for fair reporting in the local media.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The reality distortion field in Fort Erie … In the beginning, in the form of an evil serpent, the four councilors tempted Eve and it's been all downhill from there … First the bay beach condos didn't sell and this shook the Ridgeway village square investor to his core. In actual reality … Was the proposal for the village square even commercially viable ? Is there sufficient demand for a brand new (expensive) commercial/residential building ? What is the vacancy rate of existing rental space ? Even the planning department will acknowledge there is an oversupply of commercial space in Ridgeway. But we are in an election year … Doesn’t it seem like many of the potential investors coming to town expect council and the good people of Fort Erie to underwrite their financial risk ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The property on Ridge Road has been a problem for the town for years. It was donated to the town by the Bertie Historical Society from Bingo funds for use as an adjunct museum. The building was found to be unsuitable for the intended purpose. It was eventually razed in the spring of 2013. Sleek developments, Inc. (Rainer Hummel) bought the property in June, 2013 for $100,000. That money was paid back into the Museum reserve fund to repay the Bertie Historical Society's bingo fund.

      Since the purchase, nothing has been done to the property. (Please note that Mr. Hummel bought the property while the Bay Beach Issue was still ongoing.)

      Now, he wants to abandon it. He has been going through the process of developing the former CanGro property in St. David's since 2010. There was opposition to his plan, but he remained committed to it. He also proposed a major hotel development at The Phillips Estate which has now, for all intents and purposes been abandoned. Work has not been done on the property for at least two years:

      The Phillips Estate This large estate property on Queen Street was purchased several years ago by local developer Rainer Hummel. Several lots were severed and developed. The original house was to become a 24 room Inn. The back of the house was removed in order to build an addition. Many trees and the gardens removed. Then the work stopped. This was about two years ago. The property is beginning to look very neglected and there is no word on when or if the development will continue. Niagara Heritage Alliance

      Are you beginning to get the picture?

      Delete
  4. VERY CONCERNED CITIZENMarch 5, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Is it worth mentioning that Mr. Hummel has also served on the board of directors of the PC Ontario Fund at Ontario PC Party?

    ReplyDelete
  5. CorruptionFighterMarch 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    "Reality distortion field in Fort Erie".

    Good one!!

    mostly perpetuated by Messr's Martin n Thibert in an attempt to hold on to power, prestige and most importantly MONEY.

    They have been at the helm of this rotting ship for about a decade more or less and have done nothing but incite riot between east and west and of course feather their own nests.

    As for the Four councillors tempting Eve SuperDave, I believe this was the other way around and when Eve couldn't tempt them with her underhanded ways, she DRAGGED THEM ALL INTO COURT!!

    nice use again of our taxes doug.

    SUPPORT THE FOUR!! kick out the ol boys as they cost u tax $$

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would like to respond to CorruptionFighter's post dated March 3, 2014 at 9:00 AM on a previous topic.

    Corruption, over the last couple of days, I have gone through numerous past posts and topics and find nothing to support your convictions. I see a lot of allegations but have yet to find any substantial evidence to support those allegations.

    I know I tend to sit on the fence until I am swayed one way or another. Could you please direct me to posts that clearly show the corruption in town hall or submit that corruption as you know it.

    Thanks,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You will not find many past blog posts here because I completely dumped about ten years' worth last fall. I was seriously considering giving up the whole thing because of the harassment and problems coming from the Great Unwashed. How you may find out about "corruption" in this town is to get to know more people as many will tell you stories of corruption but will not go "on record" with their accusations. They are afraid. Many are dependent on a job and have to keep quiet about what they see. I am hoping that some day in the not too distant future, at least some of it will be revealed. In the meantime, we keep our eyes, ears and minds open.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your reply. I didn't realize that many posts had been erased. Perhaps they will resurface. I am just having a difficult time understanding the problem. Although I "officially" live in Ridgeway, I am in the country. Too many responsibilities on the farm to get out and talk to people.

      Delete
  7. CorruptionFighterMarch 5, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    What's your motivation Kevin?

    It seems you're asking for something very obvious. If you have lived here since 1949, you surely can come up with a few allegations of your own. You don't have to see it to know it's there, much like a turd on a hot summers day. As the editor has said many people know of it but due to their job positions etc are unable to come out with it.

    Maybe you don't like the word corruption? It's here alright maybe you can see the Port Dalhousie affair for what it is. What do you call that? just a really bad decision by a whole bunch of officials some of whom have now come out with admittance of campaign "donations".

    Maybe it's just in Quebec where they have dedicated anti corruption procedures but somehow the problem stops at the provincial border. Corruption is hard to prove because the culprits are not in the habit of giving out receipts for services rendered.

    Anything specifics I know will not be divulged on this forum open to the public and giving the perpetrators warning, so they can cover their dirty tracks that's for sure.

    So Kevin are you fishing for information or just naive?

    ReplyDelete
  8. CorruptionFighterMarch 5, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    Forgive the attitude Kevin, maybe you are exactly who you say you are and you are blissfully unaware of how dirty local politics is here. Big politics = big and often dirty money.

    There has been a lot of cloak and dagger, fishing for information, dirty tricks of every sort and it is unfortunate that I for one cannot accept everyone at face value. Call it a survival reaction.

    Take my word for it. The entire town will be a lot better off if we can clean it up.

    Keep investigating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you think it's interesting timing, CF, the statement by Rainer Hummel? Seems that he quickly lost interest in the Ridgeway property and decided to blame those opposed to the Bay Beach Condo for the reason. Then James Culic piled on. He made an inaccurate statement when he said, "and then spent another $260,000 to fire its own lawyer and settle a wrongful dismissal case filed against it in the process" Wrong! There was never a wrongful dismissal suit filed.

      And who can believe Brady's assertion that one development would provide 1.5% of the total tax base? You mean that no other entity in town pays as much as one high rise condo would? What about all those lakefront cottages and estates? I'd bet that, combined, they pay a hell of a lot higher percentage of the tax base for Fort Erie. What about all the corporations and businesses in town? Do they not pay taxes? Brady implies that this condo, that can't even sell enough units to keep going, would provide nearly a million dollars in tax revenue?

      The idea of a twelve story condo on public waterfront property was and still is, a very bad idea. They can spin it any way they want; it's still a bad idea. As one developer was once overheard bragging, "I can get anything I want in Fort Erie; all I have to do is pay." There's no corruption in Fort Erie. None at all.

      Delete
    2. CorruptionFighter, I can forgive your attitude because that is in my nature, but that cannot discount the words you said to me.

      Yes, I am EXACTLY who I say I am, but every time I post I get disrespectful comments made about me. I really don't need that so I will conclude my attempted discussion with you people tonight, and leave all your comments amongst yourselves, you obviously don't want any outsiders of your group here. You see, my son gave me his old computer and for Christmas got me an internet connection. This stuff is all new to me. He showed me how to google and when I looked up Ridgeway, this is one of the sites that came up. I wish I never got involved with it.

      I have to get this off of my chest, CorruptionFighter, I think you have a more serious fight in your inner self. How a person can be so mean at the drop of a hat to a person for just stating there opinion is beyond me. I wish you well, but you need to tone down your anger and rudeness and get some help.

      Delete
    3. CorruptionFighterMarch 6, 2014 at 7:25 AM

      Sorry you feel that way Kevin. That's twice I have apologized and have explained why. Hope you stick around, if not best of luck to you.

      Delete
  9. Someone called my attention to another person who had been interested in the Ridge Road property and was all set to put in an offer when Mr. Hummel came in out of nowhere to buy the property. Seems odd for a person who has many "big developments" on the go to come into a village and buy a smallish piece of property and then, after less than a year, throw in the towel. WTF? Was there ever a plan filed for the property by Mr. Hummel? Why did he buy the property when there was someone with an actual plan for the property?

    Something is just not right with this.

    ReplyDelete
  10. CorruptionFighterMarch 5, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    Standard fare for around here Madam Editor. Very convenient excuse for this developer and he didn't even have to think about it for more than a few seconds. Developer is rapidly becoming a four letter word around these parts. They certainly cannot all be bad, but it seems we attract the less desirable. Maybe because building permits are so easily bought here and bylaws so easily stomped on again and again.

    Culic is young,edgy and trying hard to make a name himself. I hope he doesn't sell his soul too cheap for ambition.

    Brady already has already sold his soul.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Doug Martin was on CKTB this morning talking about the abandonment of the Ridge Road project. He expressed the lack of co-operation developers find in Fort Erie because of the Bay Beach situation. Then the kicker: he said that it will change after the next election with a new council.

    OK. Here's the mayor, orchestrating a conflict of interest lawsuit against four councillors and perhaps persuading a fellow loyal PC member to write a letter blaming the Bay Beach situation for the reason he's pulling out of his "development" of a $100,000. property that he grabbed away from another interested party. Hummel has not even talked about what he was going to do with the property. Yet, he is already abandoning it. Meanwhile, the other interested party was shut out.

    Why does this sound like another set-up to trash the four councillors? Fort Erie has many developments on the books. Just down the road from the Bay Beach project is Marz Homes which has plans to build town houses and single story homes. There is a development planned on Rebstock Road which is going through the process. Neighbours have had a chance to express their concerns.

    No one has questioned Hummel's given reason for abandoning the property or what he had planned to do with the property prior to giving up. The answer? Because he had no plan - except to help his friend Doug.

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  12. I don't think we have heard the last of Mr Hummel, this developer has bigger plans than a small piece of land on Ridge rd.
    I would think that maybe he is interested in developing another property not yet acquired & realizes that the 4 councillors would not be for it. So lets skewer the 4 before an election & then after all is said & done bring in your proposal which will be received gladly by the old boys network, led by non other than his honour Mayor Martin. Someone needs to challenge Mr Hummel on his nasty comments & he needs to explain why the 4 would not agree with his plans for ridge rd. Mr Brady is Town staff & should be neutral not take sides especially during an election year.
    Things are getting ugly & I wonder what it is so important that the Good Ole Boys can't lose at any cost!! The surface needs to be scratched to expose what ever it is that makes this elections so important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not surprising Martin and Hummel are friends. They were seen canoodling at the recent by-election event staged by the OBB. Perhaps Mr. Hummel should get back to his hotel development in N-O-T-L. Oh, that's right. That one was put on hold to await a better economic climate. No nasty letters to the Lord Mayor of N-O-T-L?

      Delete
  13. The Town of Fort Erie should not be buying Real Estate. The property that Mr Hummel purchased for $100,000 from the Town, the Town paid $160,000 in 2000. A loss of $60,000 not including the monies spent on Building improvements etc. over the 13 years of ownership. Some one should look into the real cost of this property to the Town & find out who is responsible for this careless use of Tax payer monies. The current assessed value is now $57,000 as it is vacant land.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe that the bertie Historica Society purchased the property using bingo money. Town was pledged to pay the money back to the BHS's museum reserve because it was donated through bingo funds. The whole thing is very murky; the land itself is not very large and there would have to be more space between any new build and the buildings near it. Looks about the right size for a small building or park. Certainly not of interest to a "big time" developer like Hummel.

      Delete
  14. Frankly I am quite surprised that Mr Hummel is good friends with Doug Martin. Seems odd. Mr Hummel's Queen street property in NOTL has been going thru a major renovation this past year & looks great, the out buildings have been refurbished etc. The hotel has all the approvals etc. but Mr Hummel is waiting for a better economic environment before proceeding. Makes sense.
    Just can't seem to understand the reason to buy that lot in Ridgeway which makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete

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