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New offer exchanged in transit lawsuit

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

An offer that could see the end of a nearly seven-year long lawsuit between the Region of Durham and City of Oshawa over the transfer of transit assets is now back in regional hands.

During a closed meeting of council on March 19, Oshawa councillors received information that resulted from a meeting on March 16 of an ad hoc committee set up by Durham Region to deal with the transit issue.

According to Mayor John Henry, councillors reviewed the offer and responded, but would not share any details as to what was discussed or what was contained in the offer. That response will be reviewed by the ad hoc committee ahead of the regional council meeting today (March 21).

“It’ll be interesting what happens after that,” Mayor Henry says. “They will hopefully look at what we’ve done and if that’s acceptable, great, and if it’s not they’ll send us something.”

This is the second such back and forth that has happened between Oshawa council and the ad hoc committee, which sent an original offer as a result of a meeting on March 9. Oshawa councillors met on March 12 in closed session to discuss the matter.

The lawsuit in question dates back to 2011 when the region sued the city over “unfunded liabilities” including pensions and benefits incurred from when the region took over Oshawa Transit in 2004.

Mayor Henry says that due to the maturity of the Oshawa transit system at the time, there was a lot of moving parts when things were shifted to the region.

“With that came a lot of really talented people that were moved to the region that worked as drivers and mechanics and there were assets and a number of things that went forward. So, it’ll be nice to get this resolved,” he says.

If the matter is not settled by April 2, it is scheduled to be sent to binding arbitration. Henry is hopeful the matter will be concluded before that date.

“I’m optimistic, but you never know,” he said. “It’s a very complicated file with a lot of interesting pieces. It’s sad that it’s taken this long.”

The matter has also been a costly one for the city and the region, and in turn the taxpayers.

At this time last year, the region released a report that revealed Durham had spent more than $720,000 in legal fees up to that point, including more than $623,000 in fees, over $18,000 in disbursements and more than $81,000 in taxes. It’s unclear how much has been added over the last year.

However, following the release of the regional report, the City of Oshawa declined to follow suit and has kept their legal costs in the dark.

“We really don’t want to give away our plan B,” Mayor Henry said when asked about the decision not to share the dollars being spent on the lawsuit. “We’ve been working on a plan B, along with this, which is plan A for a while now and invested a lot of staff time in this.”

 

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