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EPC approves $17M additional spending on police HQ

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Winnipeg’s civic senior administrators breathed a collective sigh of relief this morning after getting approval from the executive policy committee for additional spending to finalize the new police headquarters building.

Mayor Sam Katz and members of EPC unanimously endorsed the administration request – in contrast to the grilling the administrators received from a council committee last week.

The biggest change of heart came from Point Douglas councillor Mike Pagtakhan: Last week, Pagtakhan said he was unhappy with the city’s senior bureaucrats but this morning he had nothing but praise for them.

"I heard some good comments and explanations (this morning)," Pagtakhan said, as he recommended EPC accept the request for $17.2 million in additional funding. "There was definitely a lot of rigour and due diligence (by administration) on a very complex project."

The project ballooned in cost from $135 million in 2009 to $209.8 million this fall.

Finance officials want the city to borrow $15.2 million and redirect $2 million from other sources to cover the latest shortfall.

The issue now goes to council for final approval.

Pagtakhan chaired the downtown development committee meeting last week where the administrators got a hostile reception.

This morning, Pagtakhan and the other councillors said they were satisfied with the explanations given for the cost over-runs and they kept repeating that the project "is a good news story."

A civic report detailed the $17.2 million cost over-run:

  • $12.1 million – necessary changes to mechanical, fire alarm and electrical systems’
  • $4.4 million – relocating generators to the roof and associated costs.
  • $220,000 – small change orders.
  • $486,000 – pressurizing stairways to meet building codes.

Katz said that the contractors have assured the city that, unless there are additional changes, the current price tag of $209.8 million for the project will not change.

Katz said that the project was built at a substantially less cost on a per-square-foot basis than the recently opened west and east district police stations, and considerably less than new police headquarters built in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

Following the meeting, Katz said administrators should have notified council about the spiraling cost increases when they learned about them.

"Any time there is a change made for a definitive reason, a good reason, it should be reported as soon as possible,’’ Katz said, adding he would be concerned over the cost over-runs if the project hadn’t turned out to be such a good value for the money spent on it.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck said she remains unsatisfied with answers provided by administration and will push for council to authorize an audit into the project.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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