Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fire-hall audit to get first viewing

Mayor to table review next week

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After five months of delays, Winnipeg's long-awaited fire-paramedic review will finally see the light of day next week.

Mayor Sam Katz has called a special meeting of council's executive policy committee on Monday afternoon to table the external review of Winnipeg's troubled fire-paramedic station replacement program, which occupied much of city hall's attention during the tumultuous final months of 2012.

The review has weighed heavily on the minds of elected officials and senior city public servants since the end of May, when it was originally due to be presented to council.

Tensions at 510 Main St. rose even higher in September, when the city fired former fire-paramedic chief Reid Douglas, one of the central figures in the saga involving the construction of four new fire-paramedic stations in River Heights, Charleswood, St. James and Sage Creek.

No fewer than 11 of council's 16 members expressed concern with the timing of Douglas' dismissal, which chief operating officer Deepak Joshi insisted had nothing to do with the fire-paramedic review. In the wake of that dismissal, some councillors began weighing the dismissal of chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl, the head of the city's public service.

Katz finally called the Oct. 21 special meeting after conferring with members of executive policy committee on Tuesday. Members of council welcomed the move.

"I'm a little bit disappointed it has taken this long to get out, but it's good to finally see the report," said council protection chairman Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), quickly adding he has not seen the report but looks forward to doing so on Monday.

"I'm glad we're going to finally see what's in the report. It's long overdue. We were expecting it months ago," added Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck. "I'll be asking about that."

The review will be presented first to council on Monday at a closed-door seminar, which will be followed by a public meeting of executive policy committee at 2 p.m. A special meeting of council will then be called for Tuesday. The review is expected to determine what went wrong with the $17.8-million fire-paramedic-station replacement program, which involved the construction of a new Station No. 27 on Sage Creek Road, the reconstruction of Station No. 18 on Roblin Boulevard, the replacement of Berry Street's Station No. 11 with a new station on Portage Avenue and the replacement of Grosvenor Avenue's Station No. 12 with a new station on Taylor Avenue.

Last fall, council raised questions about the way the project was procured and expressed particular concern about the new stations No. 11 and 12.

The new Station No. 11 on Portage Avenue, which remains under construction inside a cloverleaf at Route 90, was beset with cost overruns.

The new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue was built on land owned by Winnipeg developer Shindico Realty. That land was slated to be swapped for three city surplus properties: the old Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Station No. 11 on Berry Street and a parcel of vacant city land on Mulvey Avenue East in Fort Rouge.

Council cancelled the three-for-one land swap last fall and instructed city real estate managers to sell the surplus properties and negotiate the acquisition of the land on which the new Taylor Avenue fire-paramedic station is being built.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2013 B1

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