Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz plays on with golf-course plan

Admits lease section likely to fail

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Mayor Sam Katz plans to bring Winnipeg's embattled golf-course proposal to city council next week even though he expects a major part of that plan to be defeated.

Katz conceded Wednesday he does not expect council to approve a 20-year deal that would see four Winnipeg golf courses maintained and operated by GolfNorth Properties, a firm based in Conestoga, Ont.

The proposed lease of the Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Harbour View and Crescent Park golf courses requires approval from a two-thirds majority of city council, which means it won't pass on May 29 if more than five of 16 council members vote against it.

As of Wednesday, seven council members had pledged to vote against the lease for reasons that include skepticism about the expected financial benefit to the city and anger over the $90,000 ad campaign the city launched to promote the plan.

'To say this file is a mess is a gross understatement' -Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck

"To say this file is a mess is a gross understatement," Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said in an address to executive policy committee. "I believe the integrity of the report is questionable, given what's gone on around it."

The mayor said he did not believe the taxpayer-funded ad campaign affected the decision of councillors who planned to vote against the lease -- either at council next week, or Wednesday at EPC, where three members of his inner circle voted against it. "The vote was exactly what it would have been," said Katz, adding later he does not believe council on May 29 will pass the lease.

The other part of the golf-course plan -- the proposed sale of John Blumberg Golf Course -- still has a chance of council approval. Declaring the 81-hectare patch of riverfront property surplus to the city's needs only requires a simple majority of council to pass. Actually selling the land at some later date will require a two-thirds majority.

In a pair of votes Wednesday, executive policy committee approved both the lease and sale. The two components were split up to prevent the entire plan from getting voted down.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, the main driver of the golf-course plan, argued the lease and sale will save the city a combined $800,000 a year, mainly through reduced labour costs.

"At the end of the day, if council chooses not to make that decision, that's council's choice. But there's no magic wand in terms of the financial challenges facing our city," he said.

Couns. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) argued against the lease, claiming the actual savings to the city would be closer to $250,000 a year.

"I don't believe the savings were anywhere near as big as suggested," said Mayes, citing how Golf Services transfers funds to general city revenues every year.

Katz countered those savings are real, as they are supported by the city auditor and chief financial officer.

He said he did not believe public mistrust in the way the city handles property transactions has affected the reception of the golf-course proposal. The mayor said he was not aware of public mistrust. "I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to," he said.

A review of the city's fire-paramedic construction program is expected to be completed next week, while a broader real-estate audit is due in July.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2013 A8

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