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Havixbeck, Swandel lock horns over fire hall traffic study

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Tempers flared at city hall this morning over the administration’s refusal to release key portions of a traffic study into the new Route 90 fire station.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck pressured Mayor Katz and members of his executive policy committee to release the full report and in return, she was attacked by Katz and Coun. Justin Swandel, who questioned her motives and suggested she wasn’t telling the truth.

Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said she’s been waiting months for administration to release the Stantec traffic report.

"People are telling me there’s no way we would have approved building a fire hall in a cloverleaf had we seen this report," Havixbeck told EPC, adding she wants to know if EPC members knew the hall was built despite a report stating it was unsafe.

The Route 90 fire station was one of four built in the now discredited fire hall replacement program, which was the subject of an external audit by consulting firm Ernst & Young.

The program was over-budget, one of the fire halls was built on land the city still does not own, and E & Y concluded the whole affair was badly managed and preferential treatment and information was provided to the local developer, Shindico, who ended up building all four halls.

The Route 90 hall was increased in size 40 per cent, largely accounting for the over-expenditure. Reports said it was Shindico who suggested building the hall inside the cloverleaf, to save the city the expense of buying additional land.

Portions of the Stantec traffic report were released to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as a result of An Access to Information request but three chapters, outlining analysis, recommendations and findings, were withheld.

The city initially said the three chapters were withheld at the objection of Shindico, which has publicly denied this, and then administration refused to release the chapters on the basis that they form advice to government and can be withheld.

"It’s important that we release the report in its entirety," Havixbeck said. "I’m questioning whether public safety is jeopardized and whether there is risk to citizens."

Havixbeck said when the hall location was brought to a community committee, she and other councillors were not told of the report’s existence.

But Katz told reporters afterwards that Havixbeck is not telling the truth or has a poor memory, adding that the report was referred to in the minutes of the community committee meeting.

"Many members of EPC as well administration were extremely shocked to hear some of (Havixbeck’s) comments," Katz said. "They were very inaccurate...

"She’s either forgotten or made an honest mistake or just not telling the truth."

Swandel (St. Norbert) said he questioned why Havixbeck would raise concerns that the administration have said do not exist.

"It leads me to believe that (Havixbeck’s) motives may be something other than the best interests of the city, it might be a little more self-serving," Swandel said.

Katz said he has never seen the traffic report but accepts the advice of administration when they say there were no traffic and safety concerns linked to locating the fire hall at that location.

But Katz said he sees no reason why the entire report shouldn’t be released, adding he will ask administration for an explanation.

The CTF’s prairie director Colin Craig said it appears that Katz and members of his EPC are allowing the administration to deliberately withhold information from council and the public.

Craig said the entire fire hall replacement program was mired in controversy, adding EPC and administration should want to release the traffic study to assure the public there aren’t any other problems.

 

Aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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