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Councillor's street cred tarred

Swandel's ex-political rival questions repaving decision

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The civic election is more than a year away, but battle lines are being drawn in St. Norbert.

Area resident Louise May, who came in a close second for the area's council seat in the 2010 election, has accused ward councillor Justin Swandel of using his position on council to get the street he lives on repaved when there are roads in his ward in worse condition.

Swandel said the allegation is simply a political machination by May, who is considering taking another run at the St. Norbert council seat in the 2014 civic election.

"There is no truth to it," an angry Swandel said. "The answer to the question, 'Did I manipulate the process?' The answer is no. End of conversation."

May said residents of Rue St. Pierre recently received notices from the city stating their street is about to be repaved.

May, who grew up on the street, said it appears the only reason it's being repaved is because Swandel lives on it, adding there are many other streets in the ward in worse shape but nothing is being done to them.

"It's strictly a cosmetic repair," May said, adding a civic employee told her no other repair work will be carried out on the street.

May lost to Swandel by 1,800 votes in the 2010 election. She said she recognizes some might say her complaint is politically driven. She said she is considering running for council again in 2014, but added that doesn't explain why so many streets are in bad repair in the ward yet the one getting repaved is the street where Swandel lives.

"Everyone in the city of Winnipeg might be interested in the fact he would repave his own road," May said.

A city public works spokeswoman said two sections of Rue St. Pierre will be repaved. One is from Avenue Lemay to Avenue Du Couvent, which officials rated in poor condition, at a cost of $145,000.The other section is from Ave Ste. Therese to the south end, rated in fair condition, at a cost of $190,000.

Each councillor is presented with a list from public works of recommended roadways for renewal.

"They work with the councillor to see what his/her priorities are for his/her ward," the spokeswoman said.

Swandel said that as a councillor, he gets to vote on which streets are repaved but denied he had done anything wrong.

"Every street that gets paved, I get to say yes or no."

Swandel refused to elaborate on how Rue St. Pierre was chosen and what other roadways were under consideration.

"It's the only street being repaired in (St. Norbert) right now," May said. "I can say for certain there are worse roads."

May said it appears that a ward councillor's wishes for street repair could overrule the judgment of a professional from public works.

"There's just not a clear system of ranking the streets that is fair and accountable to the public," she said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2013 B1

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