Senior city officials say a proposal to build four new Winnipeg fire-paramedic stations did not have to be approved by council because it was broken down into constituent parts, each under the $10-million threshold that requires council approval – and each with its own contractual needs.
In 2009, the city issued a request for proposals to design and build new fire-paramedic stations in Charleswood, Sage Creek, River Heights and St. James. The request for proposals, which closed in 2010, called for the successful bidder to be approved by council.
The contract was awarded to Shindico Realty, the only respondent, but this was not approved by council. This was because it no longer required council approval, a panel of senior city officials said this afternoon.
The individual needs of each new fire station – some but not all required a design, the provision of land and construction management, in a variety of permutations – demanded each contract be broken up, said chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl, Winnipeg Fire-Paramedic Chief Reid Douglas, city solicitor Michael Jack, property director Barry Thorgrimson and materials-management manager Barb D’Avignon.
The officials also said the contract required council approval before a budget had been assigned to it. Once council approved the project at an overall cost of $15.3 million, there was no longer any need to come back to council, they said.
Sheegl said he is confident all city processes and protocols were observed as part of the fire-paramedic station upgrade. That includes the proposed land swap that calls for the city to trade old fire halls on Grosvenor Avenue and Berry Street – as well as 1.16 acres of a 4.2-acre site at Mulvey Avenue East in Fort Rouge – for the Shindico-owned site of the new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue.
Details of this plan will come to council in September or October, said Sheegl. If council rejects the land swap, Shindico will receive $990,000 for its Taylor Avenue land.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Sam Katz expressed concern with the with the way the city communicated details of the fire-paramedic upgrade.
"As mayor, I am concerned that complete and accurate information regarding the four new fire-paramedic stations in Sage Creek, River Heights, St. James and Charleswood has not immediately been available," Katz said.
"I have asked city administration to give priority to completing its report on this project, so that the members of the standing policy committee on property and development and all members of city council may review this matter as soon as possible.
"All members of council, as well as the citizens of Winnipeg, need to be able to have confidence in city processes. I am committed to ensuring that I, and councillors, receive a complete briefing on this project."
Sheegl said he believes the fire-paramedic upgrade has been good for the city in that Winnipeg now has four new fire-paramedic stations built or nearing completion, providing improved response times at what he described as a good price.