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Long-delayed fire hall land swap audit definitely coming next week: auditor

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The long-awaited audit of the scandal-ridden $17.8 million fire-station construction program and the accompanying land swap is expected at city hall next week.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said city auditor Brian Whiteside assured her the report from consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP will be released after the Thanksgiving weekend.

"I’m very concerned about that file," Havixbeck told reporters earlier today. "We were promised that at a June council meeting and it’s now October."

It was earlier believed the report would be released today. Now, it’s next week.

Many believe the findings of the report cost former fire chief Reid Douglas his job, and other senior city execs will follow him once it’s been released.

Havixbeck said she was told the report will be presented to a special council seminar, followed by its public release at a special meeting of the executive policy committee and then a special council meeting.

The fire-paramedic station replacement program involved the construction of a new Station No. 27 on Sage Creek Boulevard, the reconstruction of Station No. 18 on Roblin Boulevard, the replacement of Berry Street's Station No. 11 with a new station on Portage Avenue and the replacement of Grosvenor Avenue's Station No. 12 with a new station on Taylor Avenue.

Last fall, council raised questions about the way the project was procured and expressed particular concern about the new stations No. 11 and 12.

The new Station No. 11 on Portage Avenue, which remains under construction inside a cloverleaf at Route 90, was beset with cost overruns.

The new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue was built on land owned by Winnipeg developer Shindico Realty. That land was slated to be swapped for three city surplus properties: the old Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Station No. 11 on Berry Street and a parcel of vacant city land on Mulvey Avenue East in Fort Rouge.

Council cancelled the three-for-one land swap last fall and instructed city real-estate managers to sell the surplus properties and negotiate the acquisition of the land on which the new Taylor Avenue fire-paramedic station is being built.

After council called an external review into the program, Ernst & Young was asked to look at the initial impetus for building all four new stations, scrutinize the way contracts for the facilities were awarded, assess the value for money received by taxpayers and examine all processes, controls and policies involved in the program.

Ernst & Young also was asked to make recommendations to the city and suggest disciplinary action, if required.

With files from Bartley Kives

History

Updated on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 8:43 PM CDT: Changes Sage Creek from Road to Boulevard.

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