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Wyatt slams senior staff

TRANSCONA Coun. Russ Wyatt says senior public servants are more concerned about their own wallets than saving taxpayers' money. Wyatt, chairman of city council's finance committee, said he believes department heads oppose the 31/2 days of unpaid leave for non-essential city staff proposed in the 2014 budget because their pensions will suffer if they have to take unpaid leave.

"The greatest resistance we've received is from the most senior management of the city... because they're going to be impacted directly on their pensions," Wyatt told reporters Tuesday.

He was responding to comments from two civic directors who said they didn't know who among their staff would be designated "non-essential" and forced to take the unpaid leave.

Mayor Sam Katz has said the proposal is expected to save the city $1.5 million and would apply only to non-essential civic workers, including members of council and their staff.

Clive Wightman, director of community services, and Brad Sacher, director of public works, said they have not yet been told who the "non-essential" workers are.

Wyatt said the directors know which workers are "non-essential," adding they just don't want the program to go ahead.

Acting CAO Deepak Joshi declined to comment on Wyatt's accusations, adding members of the public service have acted "in good faith" in preparing the budget for council.


City runs deficit for now

FOR the first time in six years, the city is running a deficit for the last weeks of 2013.

Chief financial officer Mike Ruta said that as of the end of October, the city's budget was $3.7 million in the red. However, Ruta said he expects department heads will find enough savings to ensure the budget is balanced by year's end.

A civic report said for the same period last year, the city had an $8.5-million surplus. Ruta said additional savings were found in the remaining two months and the city ended 2012 with a $15-million surplus.

He said he believes the only factor that could undermine the budget is another snowstorm that would require snow clearing.

Regional- and collector-street plowing last week cost about $2 million and this week's residential-street plowing will cost $4 million more.

Finance chairman Russ Wyatt said if there is another snowstorm before the end of the month, the city will have to borrow from its fiscal-stabilization reserve to cover the cost.


New cop shop on budget

THE Winnipeg Police Service's new south district headquarters came in on budget and on time.

Civic finance committee was told the project had an overall budget of $18.454 million and the total cost, including construction and design, is $18.447 million.

Committee members were told the project required an unexpected environmental remediation of the former public works yard, which added $367,000 to the cost, but that was within the project's budget.


Free New Year's Eve buses

FOR the third year in a row, the City of Winnipeg is partnering with Manitoba Public Insurance to provide free transit service on New Year's Eve.

"We want everybody who is going out to celebrate New Year's Eve to get home safe and sound to their families," Mayor Sam Katz said at a news conference Tuesday.

The Free Ride program will run from 8 p.m. until the last bus leaves downtown around 1:38 a.m. on New Year's Day. The program aims to prevent alcohol-related collisions, which kill an average of 26 people in Manitoba a year.


Transcona pool gets reno

TRANSCONA'S Centennial Pool complex is getting a major reno in 2014.

Ward Coun. Russ Wyatt and Mayor Sam Katz said the city will spend $5.7 million on the pool, with construction expected to be completed in 2015.

The project involves replacing the existing outdoor pool with a new pool with an accessible beach entry for people of all abilities.

The outdoor pool will include several water slides. Improvements will be made to the existing spray pad, providing additional features.

The city said $5 million of the project cost was included in the 2013 capital budget.

The remaining funds are in the proposed 2014 budget.

-- Aldo Santin, with staff files

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2013 B2

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