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Mayor, EPC give go-ahead to police HQ audit

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The newly renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue is $76 million over budget.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The newly renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue is $76 million over budget.

External auditors will be conducting a review of the police headquarters project.

At executive policy committee this morning, Mayor Sam Katz and councillors voted 6-1 to authorize the city auditor to hire outside professionals to review the project, whose costs increased from $135 million to $210 million between 2009 and 2012 .

"We need to go through the whole process (of an audit) to restore confidence, to ensure nothing inappropriate or untoward was done," said Coun. Jeff Browaty, who brought the motion to EPC.

The motion must still be approved by council at its Jan. 29 meeting, but its passage is now assured.

The audit is to be done with 150 days of council approving it, ensuring it will completed well in advance of the Oct. 22 civic election.

Council was told in 2009 that the $135-million cost was a guaranteed maximum price but that was grossly misleading as the figure was based on only 30 per cent of the plans being completed.

Most of the cost increases were the result of key items omitted from the initial budget that were later added back in, including: furniture, and mechanical and electrical upgrades; and necessary security upgrades.

However, no members of senior administration have been publicly questioned as to why they remained silent as the costs escalated and why the 2009 maximum price wasn’t likely to be a realistic figure.

A similar motion was narrowly defeated in a 7-9 vote at the November council meeting, with Katz and EPC voting as a block against, along with councillors Thomas Steen and Devi Sharma.

Steen and Sharma said last week they too would reverse their position on a new vote, ensuring the audit passes with near-unanimous support.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck, who had been pressuring Katz and members of his EPC for the audit since the November vote, said she was pleased with the morning’s turn of events.

Only Coun. Justin Swandel voted against the audit motion, explaining later that he doesn’t believe it will uncover anything that hadn’t been disclosed in previous reports.

The motion also authorizes a quantity survey, to determine that the city received good value for the project.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 3:04 PM CST: Picture added.

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