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City may scrap Shindico pacts

Pair of property-management contracts under scrutiny

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City hall is exploring the idea of cancelling a pair of property-management contracts awarded to Shindico Realty under a process council's property chairman called "a bit of a stretch."

Council's property committee voted Tuesday to give city staff a month to determine the ramifications of cancelling Shindico's contracts to manage the former Canada Post building on Graham Avenue and the former Dominion Bridge site south of Dublin Avenue.

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Shindico won the contracts because it ranked first on a 2008 request for qualifications (RFQ) from companies capable of providing real estate services for the city as well as on a 2010 followup search for the same services.

Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which learned of the contracts through a freedom-of-information request, complained in September these searches did not spell out the fact the city was also looking for a property manager.

Shindico earns about $154,000 a year to manage the tower portion of the Canada Post building, which the city acquired to convert the warehouse portion of the structure into the new police headquarters. Shindico also earns about $21,000 a year to manage the Dominion Bridge site, which the city acquired in a tax sale.

On Tuesday, Craig and former mayoral adviser Brian Kelcey appeared before council's property committee to argue against the awarding of more contracts under the same RFQ process.

The 2008 and 2010 search language said the city was looking for real estate work that "may include acting as a buyer agent, listing agent, site evaluation, due diligence and marketing of commercial properties or any other related type of work as specified by the contract administrator or designated representative."

The city's position was that property management is an example of "any other related type of work."

Committee chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) disagreed and planned to move a motion Tuesday calling on future real estate RFQs to have more explicit language.

But Browaty withdrew his motion after city planning, property and development director Barry Thorgrimson assured him no new contracts would be awarded under the existing RFQ.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, however, moved a separate motion to explore the possibility of cancelling the Canada Post and Dominion Bridge contracts. The property committee -- Wyatt, Browaty, Grant Nordman (St. Charles) and Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) -- approved the motion unanimously.

After the vote, Thorgrimson said his department will find out whether any clauses allow the contracts to be cancelled and whether there would be penalties for such a move.

He said he hopes the city will maintain the contracts, noting both the Canada Post and Dominion Bridge sites are complex properties that lie beyond the capacity of the city to manage.

"Shindico, being the listings agent, is completely comfortable with the sites. They have detailed information on them, so the property-management aspects make sense in this case," Thorgrimson said.

A Shindico spokesman said in September the firm acquired special knowledge of the Canada Post site after working for a year on its acquisition. The spokesman deferred to the city for comment Tuesday.

Craig hailed Tuesday's meeting as "a victory for taxpayers" because the city will put the brakes on awarding new real estate contracts under the existing RFQ.

E is for expropriation

ALONG with talking tough about contract cancellations, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt used the dreaded e-word at property committee Tuesday.

At the end of the committee meeting, Wyatt used the "new business" period to ask city property staff whether it made sense to consider expropriating the new fire paramedic Station No. 12, which is built on Shindico Realty-owned property on Taylor Avenue.

A short discussion ensued about the pros and cons of expropriation, with planning, property and development manager Barry Thorgrimson opining expropriation can prove costlier to taxpayers than conventional real-estate negotiations.

Piping in from the back of the room, Winnipeg chief operating officer Deepak Joshi then suggested the committee go in camera -- that is, behind closed doors -- for the remainder of the meeting.

"Why? It's already on the front of the newspaper and on every TV station," retorted Wyatt, referring to the questions swirling around the fire-paramedic construction project.

The committee then proceeded to meet in camera. Committee chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) later told reporters that even if expropriation is not the best deal for taxpayers, the city must keep its options open.

-- Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2012 B1

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