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Sewage plant project delayed

City's capital budget down 16% this year

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2011 (2377 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The City of Winnipeg has put off construction of a $365-million North End sewage-treatment upgrade for a year, giving Mayor Sam Katz more time to lobby the province -- and perhaps a new provincial government -- to end a dispute about polluting Lake Winnipeg.

On Friday, Katz and city council finance chairman Scott Fielding (St. James) tabled the 2011 capital budget, the city's blueprint for $370.1 million worth of road, bridge, building and waste water improvements this year.

Mayor Sam Katz, speaking to news media after the city's capital budget was tabled, says the waste water nutrient-removal plant will be built by 2014.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Sam Katz, speaking to news media after the city's capital budget was tabled, says the waste water nutrient-removal plant will be built by 2014.

There were few surprises in the infrastructure renewal plan, except for the absence of what would have been the city's most expensive project, the $365-million nutrient-removal facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre.

In 2003, the province ordered the city to build the nutrient-removal facility as part of a larger waste water treatment upgrade that will eventually cost the city billions. The province wants the facility to remove both phosphorus and nitrogen, which promote the growth of algae that cloud Lake Winnipeg during the summer, then die off in large quantities, depriving the lake of oxygen.

The city has long argued that in addition to phosphorus, it should only remove nitrogen in the form of ammonia, which is toxic to fish, and not bother with other forms of nitrogen, which the blue-green algae can obtain directly from air. Citing freshwater scientists, the city insists nitrogen removal will waste money and harm the environment. The province stands behind its own science.

"I've made it clear where science stands on the issue," Katz said Friday, insisting the nutrient-removal plant will be completed by 2014, as ordered by the province, no matter what happens with his lobbying efforts. He said he has no assurances from the Progressive Conservatives they will back the city's position if elected.

Fielding, meanwhile, said delaying the facility had nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations with environmental consulting firm Veolia Canada, which will help design and build the plant. The city's contract with Veolia to oversee at least $661 million worth of sewage-treatment upgrades remains incomplete.

Overall, the $370.1-million capital budget this year represents a 16 per cent drop from 2010, when federal infrastructure stimulus projects made up a sizable component of last year's $439-million capital budget.

The biggest projects planned this year include the $195-million Disraeli Freeway reconstruction, the $109-million Chief Peguis Trail extension and the $106-million conversion of the downtown Canada Post building into a new police headquarters.

The city is borrowing $79 million for the police headquarters project. Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt argued the city should borrow even more in order to conduct more infrastructure renewal.

"This is not even a stand-pat budget. It's a fall-back budget," Wyatt said.

City borrowing, however, is on the rise. A combination of conventional bank borrowing and private-public partnerships will effectively double the city's debt in five years, budget documents project.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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Few budget surprises

The City of Winnipeg plans to spend $370.1 million on roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure this year, down from $439 million in 2010. There's little in the way of new projects in the 2011 capital budget, as most were announced in previous years. Here are some of the highlights:

Under construction this year

Disraeli Freeway: The $195-million reconstruction, which includes a separate bike-and-pedestrian bridge, will take two years.

New police headquarters: After buying the Canada Post building for $29 million, the city will transform the Graham Avenue into a new police headquarters at a total cost of $106 million. The city will borrow $79 million to complete the project.

Chief Peguis Trail: The $108.5-million eastern extension, which includes an underpass at Rothesay Street and bike-and-pedestrian bridge at Raleigh Street, will be close to completion this year.

Road repairs: $43 million will be spent on road repairs, including $18.7 million on regional streets, $12 million on residential streets, $3 million on gravel roads and $2.75 million on back lanes.

Osborne Bridge: The city will begin the two-year, $17.4-million rehabilitation this year.

Transit fare-collection system: After years of delays, Winnipeg Transit buses are finally getting high-tech fare boxes at a total project cost of $15.2 million.

Assiniboine Park: $9.6 million will be spent on the city's largest park, up from $8 million in 2010.

Active transportation: The city will spend $4.75 million on new bike-and-pedestrian paths, recreational trails and sidewalks this year. Almost $3 million will be used to complete projects planned for 2010.

University of Winnipeg soccer complex: The city will spend $2 million on an indoor-soccer facility, as promised by Mayor Sam Katz during the 2010 election.

Put off until next year

North End sewage treatment: Construction of a $365-million nutrient-removal facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre has been delayed until 2012.

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