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City road work more expensive than expected

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City council is now on summer break, but members of the finance committee put in a couple of hours of work Thursday morning.

In addition to questioning CFO Mike Ruta over lingering issues stemming from the KPMG audit into the construction of the new police headquarters building, councillors looked after some neglected business.

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The cost of road work this year will be more expensive than city officials had expected.

Public works director Brad Sacher said a jump in the cost of asphalt is resulting in a seven per cent increase in street pavement costs.

Sacher also said that contractors have so much work that they don't expect to be able to meet the city’s timelines for completion — so they're including the penalties they expect the city to impose in the bids they’re making for the road work.

Wyatt, chairman of the committee, said the contractors would be paying the city penalties with the money the city paid them to do the work.

Fire-paramedic overtime costs still unaccounted for

Transcona councillor Russ Wyatt isn’t pleased with the administration of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, which has yet to account for its 2013 overtime costs.

A report from the WFPS was due on Thursday’s agenda of finance committee but there was no one from WFPS there and CFO  Ruta said a report will be ready for September.

"The fact it’s been on the agenda since November and it’s not here is not acceptable," said Wyatt, chairman of the committee.

With no alternatives, the committee put the issue over to its September meeting.

The WFPS was facing a multi-million-dollar overtime bill last year, mainly due to a shortage of firefighters. The issue resulted in a showdown between the firefighters' union and service administration, which was preparing to reduce staffing at two fire halls to deal with a budget shortfall.

But staffing changes never happened after the union and service administration said they'd agreed on a plan to reduce overtime costs.

Ruta said the service was still showing overtime costs for 2013 of $3.8 million but expected that number would be reduced once the final report is in.

The report is also expected to show how the costs were reduced.

 Strict budget rules to be enforced

Departments at city hall have been given strict budget guidelines for 2015.

Chief financial officer Mike Ruta told the finance committee Thursday that all departments were told they had to keep their budgets at 2014 levels, with the only exception those that are dealing with new projects ordered by council.

Ruta said the budget order also applies to salary increases, adding any additional cost increases because of salary bumps have to be matched with cuts to the department.

"We’ve told people that every other category has to stay at the same level as previous years," Ruta said.

Ruta informed the committee of the budget restriction after Coun. Paula Havixbeck proposed a motion that departments be required to submit a business case proposal for any budget increase greater than the Consumer Price Index.

Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said that budget process is used by other municipalities. She said she’ll bring the proposal to executive policy committee for consideration in September.

Province should review city hall's governance model: Wyatt

Wyatt called on the provincial government to appoint a judicial inquiry into the goings-on at city hall earlier this week and on Thursday he said it should also review the governance model at city hall.

Wyatt said it’s been almost 12 years since the province introduced the City of Winnipeg Charter, adding the province needs to review the powers of the mayor’s office and how standing committees function and relate to administration.

"Everything should be on the table, especially comparing how Winnipeg operates to other municipalities in Manitoba," Wyatt said. "It’s been 12 years, so the time is now."

Wyatt said he doesn’t believe that city hall needs the powerful executive policy committee, which is sometimes referred to as the mayor’s cabinet, adding administrative recommendations are wrongly screened by the mayor’s office before going to council.

Wyatt said the province should conduct both reviews simultaneously, adding they’re both needed urgently and one shouldn’t take priority over the other.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 9:33 PM CDT: Corrects typo.

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