Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big cost hike for fire hall feared

Councillors told St. James station may be up to $2.3M over budget

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A new fire-paramedic station under construction in St. James may be as much as $2.3 million over budget, city councillors have been warned.

But it's unclear whether the price tag for the new Station No. 11 at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Route 90 is going up because of changes to the scope of the project or because of actual cost overruns.

As part of a $15.3-million fire-paramedic station replacement program, the city plans to decommision the existing Station No. 11 at 200 Berry St. when a new fire-paramedic station is complete inside a cloverleaf at 1705 Portage Ave.

The new station No. 11, whose budget was pegged at $5.8 million, is one of four new fire-paramedic stations under review by the city auditor and external legal and property experts. It's also the largest of the four new stations, as the other three new facilities -- No. 18 in Charleswood, No. 12 in River Heights and No. 27 in Sage Creek -- were each built for $3 million to $3.3 million.

In a briefing last week, several members of executive policy committee were told the new Station No. 11 was subject to a price increase that may wind up being anywhere from $300,000 to $2.3 milllion. But city finance officials have yet to determine the precise amount of the increase -- and the exact nature of the change, said council property chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and protection chairwoman Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo).

"The numbers are being reviewed at the moment and it sounds like there may very well be an overrun," Browaty said Wednesday. But councillors are still waiting to find out if the increase is the result of an imprecise initial estimate or a change to the station design -- or something else entirely.

"We still don't have the details as to whether it's a cost overrun or a scope change," Havixbeck said. "I'm optimistic this review will reveal why the changes were needed and what the differences are."

Havixbeck said councillors are curious as to why they were not told earlier about any financial issue regarding Station No. 11, especially since a $62,000 cost overrun for Station No. 27 was the subject of a city report.

An earlier plan for Station No. 11 called for some form of firefighting museum, but that was dropped before the city awarded a design and construction contract to Shindico Realty, said St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, whose ward includes the new station.

In July, during a hearing about a street closure that would clear the way for the cloverleaf construction project, councillors were told there would be approximately 600 square feet of additional green space on the site. But councillors have not been presented with plans for the station and there doesn't appear to be any council policy requiring those plans to come before elected officials, Havixbeck said.

How did that get there?

WHEN it comes to station locations, nobody could accuse the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service of lacking imagination.

Winnipeg's new fire-paramedic Station No. 11 is under construction on a patch of land that appeared destined to remain vacant forever -- the northwest cloverlead of the intersection of Portage Avenue and Route 90.

The location was chosen to allow the WFPS to respond quickly to emergencies on both sides of the Assiniboine River -- and comes with the side benefit of not costing the city a penny in terms of property acquisition, WFPS Chief Reid Douglas said in August.

Shindico Realty, the firm that won the bids to build all four of Winnipeg's new fire-paramedic stations, came up with the novel idea, Douglas said. The location will allow Station No. 11 to continue to serve St. James while also providing service to north River Heights, he said.

North River Heights needs better coverage now that the city has replaced the former Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue with a new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue, about two kilometres to the south, Douglas said.

There was no need to acquire the land. As a right-of-way, the cloverleaf technically belongs to the province but is under city control, provincial officials confirmed.


-- Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A3

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