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Politicians not sure who authorized $17M in overruns on new police HQ

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Converting the former central post office to the new city police headquarters has far exceeded the initial $135-million estimate.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Converting the former central post office to the new city police headquarters has far exceeded the initial $135-million estimate. Photo Store

Senior politicians at city hall confirmed that cost overruns at the new police headquarters could reach $17 million -- but they don’t know how much money was spent, why, and who authorized it.

Mayor Sam Katz met with reporters in the lobby of city council over the lunch-hour, and he was followed by finance chair Russ Wyatt and protection chair Scott Fielding.

All three politicians said they were surprised to learn that the police headquarters is going over-budget again, adding that senior administrators and the police executive will appear at Wednesday’s executive police committee meeting to provide answers.

The new police headquarters – the former Canada Post building on Graham Avenue – had an original budget of $168 million for purchase and renovations but that climbed to $194 million in 2011, a figure that was supposed to be guaranteed.

Katz said today that someone authorized spending more than the budget without getting political approval.

Katz denied that ex-CAO Phil Sheegl had authorized the cost overruns and that was the real reason for his forced resignation.

Wyatt said any additional spending on the police headquarters has to be justified, adding that the extra money has to come out of the police operating or capital budgets.

Wyatt said it’s possible that the cost overruns could force the closure of the police Hartford station, and moving its staff into the new headquarters.

Police have little to do with cost: union

Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland accused Wyatt of playing fast and loose with the truth.

"Wyatt well knows police had very little to do with the acquisition and procurement, in fact probably far less to do with it than the fire chief had to do with the fire halls," said Sutherland.

"He certainly is well aware that the same players in the civic bureaucracy played a key role in the police HQ deal."

Cuts to the police service will result in delays in response time, Sutherland said.

Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said that members of the police executive and senior administrators were given a month to provide the answers for EPC.

Fielding said he was shocked and frustrated that a project that has a maximum price appears to be going over-budget.

History

Updated on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM CDT: Adds union comment.

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