Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Old Toronto street signs up for auction next year

TORONTO - The city has moved a step closer to putting decommissioned street signs up for auction.

Councillors on the public works and infrastructure committee voted to put to the signs up for auction but wrangled with how much a minimum bid should be for the old signs.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, originally pitched the idea five years ago, said he’s happy it’s finally moving forward, but was not impressed by a last minute amendment which hiked the fees from $30 to $100 starting bids.

“I think we can be a bit more generous of heart,” Vaughan said. “This is about sharing this history of our city, in a poetic way, in a nostalgic way. But I guess there are some on council who see every opportunity to gouge someone ... to add a few extra dollars in the budget.”

Councillor John Parker added the amendment to the motion which hiked the minimum bid for the signs. He worried that the lower price might actually put the signs out of reach for regular Torontonians who would play second fiddle to antique dealers.

“Thirty bucks hardly buys you a coffee in this town,” Parker told the committee.

Councillor Janet Davis was concerned about the opposite, that creating bidding wars for the signs would limit how fairly they were distributed.

“We’re selling them to the highest bidder,” she said. “I fundamentally think that’s not an appropriate way to deal with our signs.”

Davis added, to a smattering of laughter, that signs like “John St. will go to the wealthiest John.”

In the end, her attempt to change the auction approach was rejected.

The report will now go city council for final approval.

Stephen Buckley, the general manager of transportation services for the city, said staff simply wanted to recover costs when they came up with the $30 minimum bid on the signs. Currently, the city has a 1,200 sign backlog to work through but if the plan is approved the auctions could start sometime in 2014, he said.

“We were basically looking at cost recovery and basically see where the auction led it.”
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