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Marco Polo Plot Thickens
Ottawa doubted final $200, 000 could be found for $1.2-million replica project

By CAMPBELL MORRISON
Times Globe staff writer

    OTTAWA - In addition to concerns over whether a Marco Polo replica would actually get built on time to qualify for millennium funding, federal officials were suspicious of the group's claims of financial support.
    Documents obtained by the Times Globe under the Access to Information Act show that the $1.2-million proposal was finally rejected when its proponent could not come up with the money or a convincing plan that it would be completed before the Canada Millennium Partnership Program expired in March 2001.
    "Without confirmation of site ownership, your proposal is still at a developmental stage and is therefore premature to be considered for funding under the Canada Millennium Partnership Program," says a federal evaluation sent to Richard Oland, project organizer of the Marco Polo Harbourfront Historical Village & Museum Inc.
    "Your project describes an activity that will not provide a finished product or deliverable until an unspecified time in the future, whereas the Canada Millennium Partnership Program requires that it be completed before March 2001. "
    As for the money, the evaluator, Horan Patrick, noted that the City of Saint John had pledged $600,000, while the program was limited to giving one-third of any project, or $400,000 in this case, leaving $200,000 unaccounted for.
    "The proponent is unsure where the $200,000 difference will be found. "
    Also troubling, but not mentioned in the evaluation, was an internal study that estimated the cost of the project would be more than double the $1.2 million the proponents submitted in their application form.
    An engineering study done by Godfrey Associates Ltd. in October 1999, just a month before the proposal was submitted, suggested the cost of building the giant replica of the famous 19th-century sailing vessel that was built in Saint John would be $2.755-million. The study was done for the Marco Polo Harbourfront Historical Village & Museum Inc.
    Phase one, which included the construction of the 2 80-foot long land-based replica ship with masts reaching 170 feet in the air, would cost $1.8-million, the engineering study estimated. The remaining costs covered an interpretation centre, walkway system and landscaping costs in phase two.
    The estimate did not account for the acquisition of land.
    In phase one, the costs were estimated in the following way: foundation, $210,000; masts and rigging, $665,500; hull and deck, $459,500; decorative items $75,000; painting, $75,000; electrical work, $110,000; and a contingency reserve of $200,000.
    "It is our opinion that the project, which must still be considered in a very preliminary stage, appears to be viable at the above indicated costs and under the assumptions made with regard to site access and foundation conditions," concluded the report.
    The Marco Polo project has been on the table for 12 years.
    Along with Mr. Oland, whose name heads the official application, Saint John teacher Barry Ogden has been most closely associated with the project.
    The actual submission for funding altered the estimates to four items: foundation $245,000; masts and rigging $789,000; decorative items $83,000 and painting $83,000.
    While it appears the engineering study was appended to the submission since it was included in the federal file on the proposal, there was no explanation for the changed estimates.
    The projects many supporters also overlooked the problems that eventually led to its rejection. Their letters were included in the file on the Marco Polo submission.
    In addition to two letters from the City of Saint John, letters of support were also received from Rothesay, Grand Bay- Westfield and Quisparnsis.
    On the political level, Saint John MP Elsie Wayne endorsed it, as did Grand Bay-Westfield MLA Milton Sherwood.
    Other organizations endorsing it included the Saint John Board of Trade, Enterprise Saint John, Uptown Saint John, Hospitality Saint John, the Saint John Airport, the New Brunswick Historical Society, the Port of Saint John and the Rotary Club of Rothesay-Kings.

The article above was in the Times Globe newspaper on Friday, July14/2000

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