Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Next up: police HQ project

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Another audit is coming from Winnipeg city hall.

While Winnipeggers continue to delve into the details of the 192-page EY audit on real estate transactions, an audit into the troubled new police headquarters project will be released Tuesday.

This audit, ordered by council at the end of January, examines the construction/renovation work on the former Canada Post warehouse and office tower at the corner of Graham Avenue and Smith Street.

The EY audit, released last week, only looked at the purchase of the Canada Post complex and the related arrangements with a local broker involved in the purchase.

The audit was carried out by consulting firm KPMG. A companion study, a value-for-money review done by another firm, will compare the costs of similar facilities to determine if the final price tag is justified.

The reports will be presented to members of council at separate, closed-door meetings Tuesday, one in the morning and another in the early afternoon. Following that, the reports will be made public at a special EPC meeting that day.

The reports will be debated publicly on the floor of council Wednesday.

Costs for the Smith Street project escalated from an early estimate of $135 million, when it was promoted as a cheaper alternative to renovating the PSB building, to a final price tag of $210 million this past fall.

The audit was spurred by an outpouring of public anger toward Mayor Sam Katz and his supporters on council who narrowly squashed an attempt in November for an outside review of the project.

Costs on the project seemed to climb on a monthly basis and civic administrators defended the escalating increases, describing them as the result of essential design changes.

Katz, backed by his executive policy committee, Speaker Devi Sharma and Coun. Thomas Steen, voted against examining the project in November but by the end of January, council voted 14-1 to order the audit.

Katz insisted the cost overrun is only $17.2 million, not $75 million, explaining earlier cost figures were only estimates that never should have been used as the financial starting point.

Space in the 11-storey office tower is being leased commercially and the city hopes to recoup some of its costs by selling the tower for at least $20 million.

Construction on the building is largely completed but the police will not begin moving in until the fall, a process that's estimated to take a further six months to complete.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2014 B1

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