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Fire station land swap deal dead

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The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s proposed three-for-one land swap is effectively dead, as city council’s property committee has voted to negotiate the purchase of the Taylor Avenue land below fire-paramedic Station No. 12.

Couns. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) Russ Wyatt (Transcona), Grant Nordman (St. Charles) and Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) voted this morning to instruct property officials to negotiate the purchase of Station No. 12 from Shindico Realty, which owns the land.

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief Reid Douglas had negotiated a deal to exchange this land for the old Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Station No. 11 on Berry Street and a vacant parcel of city land on Mulvey Avenue East.

But widespread council and real-estate industry anger over the deal – which had not been disclosed to council -- led the city to place the deal on hold and eventually order up a review of a the construction of four new fire-paramedic stations in Winnipeg. A broader audit of city real-estate transactions is also in the works.

The property committee vote does not require council approval. It calls for Shindico and the city to hire their own real estate appraiser to determine the value of Station No. 12. If both parties agree, the city will purchase the land at a midpoint between the two appraisals, provided they fall within 10 per cent of the higher appraised value. Council must approve the purchase.

If the difference is greater than 10 per cent, both parties will hire an independent, third-party appraiser to audit the two previous appraisals and then determine a binding value. Again, council must approve the final purchase.

Shindico officials have been asked to comment. If they do not agree to the purchase plan, the city may be forced to expropriate the land, Browaty and Wyatt said. Expropriations can take years, city real estate officials said.

The property committee also voted to declare the old Stations No. 11 and 12, as well as the Mulvey Avenue East land, surplus to the city’s needs. Pending council approval, the three properties will be sold and the proceeds will go to Winnipeg’s land operating reserve.

The original $15.3-million plan to build four new fire-paramedic stations called for proceeds from the No. 11 and 12 sales to offset the cost of the project. That cost is now pegged at $17.8 million.

On Wednesday, city council’s executive policy committee will be asked to approve $2.5 million in additional spending, most of which will cover cost overruns at the new Station No. 11 on Portage Avenue.

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