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As Pan Am costs double, Ford says no more surprises Add to ...

Toronto won't pay any more "surprise" costs for the Pan Am Games, Mayor Rob Ford warned after the city's bill doubled because "we had a gun put to our head."

Toronto's contribution to the 2015 sporting extravaganza is now estimated at $96.5-million - up from $49.5-million in February, 2009 - and construction hasn't even started.

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Up to $23-million of the extra cash is for cleaning up the soil at the future home of the Pan Am Aquatic Centre, which will be located partly atop the city's old Morningside dump next to the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus.

Mr. Ford's executive committee was warned on Monday that if Toronto refused to remediate the site, it could lose the coveted swimming venue, likely to the Town of Markham, which is still lobbying for the Pan Am pool.

"It bothers me a lot. I was completely blindsided by this ... we didn't really have a choice," Mr. Ford told reporters after the cabinet-like executive committee voted unanimously to pay the higher costs.

"We had a gun put to our head, as you saw, or Markham would have got it."

Toronto's full council still has to approve the heftier bill.

However, city manager Joe Pennachetti told the committee that taxpayers won't be on the hook for restoring the aquatics site.

The money will come out of a reserve account dedicated exclusively to restoring old landfills, he said.

A partnership with U of T Scarborough means the postsecondary institution will pay the balance of a $52-million cleanup bill that would be the city's alone if it developed the parcel by itself.

"That additional $23-million, that cost, cannot be avoided," Councillor Norm Kelly said. "All you're going to be doing is deferring that cost to a later date."

Ian Troop, chief executive officer of Toronto 2015, said that while it was still theoretically possible to shift the aquatics centre to Markham, it would be difficult considering work is supposed to begin as early as the end of this year.

"We have great urgency on the whole event and we're on time, but we certainly have no time to waste," he said.

The rest of Toronto's additional costs are made up of $21.3-million for construction inflation at six Toronto games venues; $1.6-million for upgrades to the city-operated track at York University; $700,000 for a BMX course in Centennial Park; and $454,000 for the city's share of managing capital costs.

When council first approved Toronto's financial stake in the games, inflation was left as a question mark. By costing it out now, the city is putting a cap of $70.77-million on its contribution to the six original games sites for which it agreed to pay a share. Senior governments are paying the rest.

The province is supposed to bear any cost overruns above the $70.77-million.

As well, track and field events were originally planned to take place in Hamilton, instead of at York University. The Centennial BMX course - assuming it goes ahead - is a proposed new addition to Toronto's roster of games sites.

That's why neither the track upgrade nor the bike course were included in the city's initial estimate.

"Taxpayers didn't know that this would cost $96-million," said David Shiner, a member of the executive committee. "They were told it would cost half of that. There wasn't the openness and the accountability that's now in place to try and make sure what the true cost is. [Now]we're putting a real number on that."

But if that "real number" changes again before athletes from 42 countries descend on the region for an event larger than the Vancouver Olympics, Mr. Ford was adamant his government won't pay the difference.

"I'm not going to put up with it," he said. "If people are going to come in with last-minute surprises, I'm telling you the city of Toronto is not going to pay for it. They can find it somewhere else."

Follow on Twitter: @kellygrant1

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