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Fire-hall cost may rise: mayor

Controversial city property sale delayed

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Mayor Sam Katz said the price tag of the fire-station replacement program may continue to climb now that city council has decided to delay the sale of three properties intended to offset its cost.

On Wednesday, city council decided against a plan to declare three properties surplus so they can be sold -- including fire-hall land on Berry Street and Grosvenor Avenue, and a strip of vacant land on Mulvey Avenue East in Fort Rouge. The city-owned properties were initially set to be traded in a land swap to Shindico Realty for Winnipeg's new fire-paramedic Station No. 12, which was built on Shindico-owned land on Taylor Avenue.

Council's property committee scrapped the land-swap deal last week and voted to buy the Taylor Avenue land from Shindico and declare the three city-owned properties surplus so they can be sold. On Wednesday, council voted to delay a decision on declaring the lands surplus and have the plans reviewed.

Katz said the proceeds from the sale were slated to go toward the cost of the fire stations and the city's purchase of the Shindico land on Taylor Avenue. He said there is a "strong potential" the city will have to come up with additional funds to pay a fair market price for the Station No. 12 land.

"The sale of those lands were supposed to go into the pot to pay for the fire-paramedic stations. If that doesn't happen, obviously there's going to be a shortfall," Katz said.

Property chairman Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said representatives from the Corydon community centre proposed using part of the former fire-hall land on Grosvenor Avenue for their athletic fields. He said a report on how the city will proceed will be considered in December.

"There's no panic in my mind when it comes to the three properties," he said.

The move came the same day council approved $2.5 million from next year's capital budget to cover cost overruns on four new fire-paramedic stations. The cost of the project rose to $17.8 million from $15.3 million, though the bulk of the cost increase -- $2.2-million -- was due to Station No. 11 on Portage Avenue.

Councillors called it a "lose-lose" situation because they were asked to approve additional spending without knowing a reason for the cost overrun. Senior city officials recently blamed design changes while Fire Paramedic Chief Reid Douglas blamed construction delays and said the design has not changed since early 2011.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said there is something wrong with the procedure as she has yet to receive any meaningful answers to explain the increase. Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) complained no one is accountable.

Protection and community services chairman Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James) said the fire-hall replacement program was plagued by administrative "screw-ups." However, he said if council did not approve the funds the city runs the risk of having a half-built fire hall that would be an "iconic symbol of incompetence."

City council voted 12-3 to approve the additional spending. Couns. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge), Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Smith voted against it.



Other decisions made by city council Wednesday:

-- Canada Post office tower: Council voted against declaring the 11-storey tower of the Graham Avenue Canada Post building surplus so it can be sold. The city plans to sell it after the Winnipeg Police Service moves into new headquarters in the warehouse portion of the building in 2014.

-- Garbage review: Council shot down a plan to review how other Canadian cities manage garbage and recycling collection despite calls for Winnipeg to investigate whether it should split waste collection between the public service and private sector.


-- Chickens: Council approved a motion to direct the animal services department to consider urban poultry farming as part of an upcoming review of pet bylaws.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2012 A7

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