Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mayor's going... but not too far

City hall offices being shuffled to accommodate renovations

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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is leaving his office -- but only moving one floor away.

The mayor's office will be shuffled around city hall next year as part of a $1.5-million renovation to the 48-year-old civic centre complex.

In 2013, Katz and his staff will move out of their second-floor digs in city hall's council building and into the main-floor offices that used to house the city clerk's department.

The clerks, meanwhile, are in the midst of moving across city hall's courtyard into a newly renovated main-floor space on the east side of the administration building. Their move should be complete by the end of the week, said Iain Day, acting manager of municipal accommodations for the City of Winnipeg.

"Now is a nice time. It's a not a busy time," he said.

The building-wide shuffle will allow workers to remove asbestos from the council building and begin the multi-year process of renovating all its offices and sealing drafty walls and windows, Day said.

Quite literally, the roof over Katz's head is porous. The mayor has to move first because the only access to the council building's roof is located inside a filing-cabinet room in his office.

"Forty-eight years ago, that probably made sense," said Day, adding the mayor's office will be completely made over as part of the renovations. "We'll have to re-skin the roof and make sure it's not leaking."

The renovation to the mayor's office is expected to be a lengthy process, said Rhea Yates, spokeswoman for the mayor.

Once the second floor of the council building is ready to be reoccupied by the mayor and his staff, councillors with offices on the main floor of the council building will move into the old clerks' office on the main floor and continue the game of musical chairs. The renovations will also bring the structure up to modern fire and safety codes.

Day said he is not yet certain of the total budget for the multi-year renovation project, which is expected to wrap up in 2014 or 2015 with the renovation of mezzanine-level office spaces in the council building. The initial $1.5-million price tag covers the cost of the clerks' new digs in the administration building and the renovations to the mayor's office.

This money comes out of a pair of line items in the 2012 capital budget -- one set aside for general building renovations and the other for city offices.

Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck, whose own office was flooded when a water pipe burst in 2011, nonetheless said she's appalled by the spending.

"I have asked for two years for the cost of just removing asbestos and completely renovating (city hall) and here we are completely renovating," Havixbeck said Wednesday. "I'm not convinced this is something that's necessary, when we're looking at tax hikes on citizens."

The 2013 operating budget is expected to include another property-tax hike, council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) warned in November.

This will be the second straight annual property-tax hike. The city increased the overall pool of taxes it collects from commercial and residential properties by 3.5 per cent in 2012, following 14 years without a hike -- three property-tax reductions and 11 tax freezes.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2012 B1


Updated on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9:56 AM CST: replaces photo

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