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HRM continues to refuse to tell us how many millions of taxpayer dollars it is paying a private firm to operate the new four-pad arena in Hammonds Plains. Readers will recall that the city contracted with Nustadia, Inc.---a subdivision of the Ohio-based Cochran Group---to operate the arena, but did not make that contract, or its terms, public. The Coast filed a Freedom of Information request for the information.

Monday, we received a copy of the 150-page-plus contract, but the essential detail---the dollar amount of the contract---is redacted. In a cover letter, Nancy Dempsey, the city’s FOI officer, justified the censorship by citing sections of the law that allow governments to withhold information that could “harm the financial or economic interest of the municipality.” We reject that reasoning, and will appeal Dempsey’s decision to the provincial Freedom of Information review office. Still, there’s some useful information in the unredacted parts of the contract. We now know that the term of the contract is 20 years, but that the city can automatically renew it for up to two five-year periods.

And, the contract explicitly states that all arena employees “shall be paid by [Nustadia] and be under the control and direction of [Nustadia] at all times and shall under no circumstances or at any time be deemed or implied to be employees of HRM.” This, of course, was the entire purpose of contracting with Nustadia in the first place: to save money through an end-run around the public employee unions. Or, put another way, by paying arena workers a crappy wage.

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