Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fire-station costs stay in spotlight

Mayor warns of need for more money

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MAYOR Sam Katz says the cost of building a new fire-paramedic station on Portage Avenue will continue grow if council doesn't promptly approve a request for $2.2 million in additional funding.

On Nov. 7, city council's executive policy committee will consider a plan to draw cash in advance from the 2013 capital budget to cover cost overruns at Station No. 11, the last of four new fire-paramedic stations built under a beleaguered city program.

Earlier this week, council's protection and community services committee refused to agree to the plan, as the advance would delay the replacement of three other aging fire-paramedic stations.

On Tuesday, Katz did not say which way he will vote next week but suggested council has no choice but to agree to advance more money for the station, which now comes with a $6.5-million price tag.

"If we don't find the money to complete Station 11, sooner than later, it's just going to cost us more money because the winter will come. There'll be heating and hoarding (costs)," Katz told reporters.

The report heading to EPC next week suggests the cost of the new station increased $2.2 million due to scope changes. But Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief Reid Douglas told reporters Monday the design of the station has been in place since early 2011 and construction delays led to the cost increase at Station No. 11.

Katz said he will wait until Nov. 7 to ask Douglas what caused the cost to increase. The mayor said he also plans to ask the chief other questions about Station No. 11, which is partly completed despite the absence of a contract to build anything other than its foundation.

Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl and chief operations officer Deepak Joshi said developer Shindico and construction company Precon have been paid less than $1 million to build the station's foundation. The partly built tower and walls at the station have risen without a contract, at the developer's risk, they said.

Katz said he has no issue with construction taking place without a contract.

"I think the private sector is certainly putting their faith in city hall," the mayor said. "My understanding is they had a contract award for the foundation and now they're acting in good faith."

No contract award for Station No. 11 appears on the city's materials management website. The contract awards for the three other new stations -- in Sage Creek, Charleswood and River Heights -- were posted on the site in August after reporters began asking about Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue.

On Aug. 31, Sheegl told reporters all four new stations had fixed budgets and timelines. Earlier this week, however, Douglas said he learned of cost overruns at Station No. 11 on Aug. 9 and promptly informed chief financial officer Mike Ruta.

Douglas said it was possible Sheegl was not made aware of the cost increase in August. Sheegl said he learned of the increase in late August.

City council finance chairman Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), whose ward includes Station No. 11, said he is concerned about the emergence of more questions about the fire-paramedic station replacement program.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2012 B1

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