A wooden staircase built by a senior citizen for CA$550 (about US$437) to access a community garden has been torn down by Toronto officials who quoted $65,000 – $150,000 for the work, Global News reports.
The staircase became the subject of controversy over government spending in Toronto after outrage from residents who learned about the government’s price tag.
Adi Astl said that he contacted Councillor Justin Di Ciano requesting a set of stairs for the Tom Riley Park in west-end Toronto in order to provide safe access to a community garden. Di Ciano quoted the senior the astronomical $65,000 – $150,000 (US$51,700 – US$119,000) price tag for the work.
Astl, a former mechanic, decided to do the work himself. He was finished in under 14 hours for a total cost of $550.
But citing safety standards Di Ciano ordered the staircase removed. Workers tore it down early Friday morning.
“At the end of the day, the city has a liability issue. We have to make sure that assets in our public spaces are to code and meets certain safety standards,” Di Ciano said.
Astl said the stairs were severely needed, since seniors in a nearby apartment complex kept stumbling on the embankment to get to the garden.
“The stairs that Adi built were well-intentioned,” Di Ciano said. “They worked well. They would have worked well for the short-term. They wouldn’t have worked for the long-term.”
Following public attention to the issue, Toronto Mayor John Tory contacted the senior on Thursday night, saying that the city will replace his staircase with a new one at a cost of $10,000.
“He thanked me for the way I addressed this situation and he’s aware now how the department shouldn’t work,” Astl said. “Who installs it, doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve proved our point.”
Tory issued a statement on Friday calling the original estimate for the stairs “absolutely ridiculous and out of whack with reality.”
“I want to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue. His homemade steps have sent a message that I know city staff have heard loud and clear,” Tory said.
“The city always needs to be looking for simple, cost-effective solutions to problems no matter how big or small they are.”
The mayor said construction on the new steps will start immediately and should complete in a manner of days.