THERE’S only one prime parking spot left at city hall and that perk isn’t one that belongs to the prime politician.
Instead, chief bureaucrat Phil Sheegl is the lucky one who gets to park his vehicle at the top of a service ramp beside the rear entrance to city hall’s administrative building. He moved his vehicle there following the closure of the Civic Centre Parkade, which was shut down in August due to structural concerns.
The closure left about 220 monthly parkers — including Mayor Sam Katz, members of city council, and city staff — and another 134 Winnipeg police and city fleet vehicles scrambling to find places to park downtown. The mayor, some members of council and city staff now park at the Centennial Concert Hall, which, like the Civic Centre Parkade, is connected to city hall via underground tunnel. Others park at the Bedford Parkade on King Street, about two blocks away.
By comparison, Sheegl is mere steps away from city hall.
City sources say the the chief administrative official’s parked car makes it difficult for service vehicles such as mail trucks to enter and exit.
On Thursday, the Mercedes Sheegl was driving was parked at the top of the service ramp, in front of a sign which reads "authorized vehicles only in designated area." Sheegl was unavailable for an interview.
City of Winnipeg spokesman Steve West said the parking space was originally set up a year ago as a temporary spot for senior staff who come and go from meetings.
West said Sheegl decided to use the space full-time following the Civic Centre Parkade closure, as a way to minimize the number of parking spots the city had to find elsewhere.
He said the city did not install an electrical outlet at the parking spot especially for Sheegl, saying it was already there. West said he has not heard of any complaints about the parking space.
"In light of the parkade closure when there was a relocation of a number of folks, Phil elected to use that spot rather than going to an underground heated spot," he said.
Other members of council said it may not be the safest place to leave a vehicle.
"It’s completely inappropriate in my books," saidCharleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck, who parks at the Bedford Parkade. "It’s a loading zone."
Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said he would be nervous parking his car on that ramp for fear of getting hit.
"It seems like a bit of a risky spot to park there permanently," said the acting deputy mayor.
"I’m surprised no one has run into him."
How long Sheegl’s vehicle will remain in the spot depends on what happens with the Civic Centre Parkade, West said.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) said downtown parking is at a premium, and most councillors and city staff park a few blocks away from city hall. Gerbasi said it appears Sheegl is getting special treatment, and hopes his vehicle isn’t disrupting traffic in a loading area.
"Maybe they should take the three monkeys statue and move it there to mark his spot," Gerbasi said jokingly, referring to the "three wise monkeys" statue Sheegl installed outside the entrance to the offices of Winnipeg’s senior public servants.