Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Where were the politicians?

Controversial Station No. 11 opens without fanfare

  • Print

Given the way politicians take credit for even the most mundane functions of government, it's impossible to complete anything without elected officials showing up to hold some form of cheesy ceremony.

If there's a new splash pad in your neighbourhood, politicians will stand at a podium to explain precisely how they made it possible for your toddler to have an outdoor shower. If the entire playground gets redeveloped, representatives from at least two levels of government will speechify about the roles they performed in providing you with a new jungle gym and teeter-totter.

And if something as significant as a new bridge opens up to traffic, all three levels of government will arrive with enough aides and public-relations flacks to fill the seats in a movie theatre.

This is the reality of retail politics, in which no governmental deed is too small or too routine for politicians to use to demand our gratitude.

Just imagine Mayor Sam Katz and newly minted council protection chairman Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) addressing TV cameras in front of a physical manifestation of everything that has gone wrong with the way the City of Winnipeg procures capital projects

Nevertheless, politicians have yet to stand at a podium in front of Station No. 11, the brand-new fire-paramedic facility that quietly opened in late October inside the cloverleaf at the northwest corner of Portage Avenue and Route 90.

Why? Well, no one at the city, the province, or Ottawa wants to be associated with a structure that will forever serve as a reminder of civic mismanagement, overspending and the unfair awarding of contracts.

On Oct. 25, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service started moving equipment into Station No. 11, the last of four new fire-paramedic stations built in this city over the past three years. This $6.3-million station replaces the old Station No. 11 on Berry Street, which is slated to be sold after Friday, when the transition to the new facility is expected to wrap up.

Firefighters and paramedics, however, have already started responding to calls from the new Portage Avenue station, where contractors are applying some finishing touches. For now, there are no plans to hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at the station.

"Possible opening-event discussions will begin once the station is turned over to the service," city spokeswoman Alissa Clark said in a statement, leaving the door open to what would be a most amazing ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Just imagine Mayor Sam Katz and newly minted council protection chairman Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) addressing TV cameras in front of a physical manifestation of everything that has gone wrong with the way the City of Winnipeg procures capital projects.

The overdue, over-budget, and oversized Station No. 11 is the final facility to be completed under a program that saw contracts to build four stations awarded on a non-competitive basis to a single firm, Shindico Realty, says a scathing audit accepted by city council last month.

On the basis of a process the audit deemed unfair, a new Station No. 18 rose on the Roblin Boulevard site of the old Station No. 18 in Charleswood. A new Station No. 27 rose on Sage Creek Road as part of a contract awarded to Shindico after the city rejected bids obtained through an abandoned request for proposals, the audit found. And a new Station No. 12 rose on Taylor Avenue land owned by Shindico that was to be swapped for three city properties under a deal that would have benefited the private firm to the tune of $250,000 to $500,000, the audit said.

Work on the new Station No. 11, meanwhile, began "without appropriate contract award authorization" and was eventually completed by splitting the work into two components because there wasn't enough money in the council-approved project budget, said the audit.

This station also started out as a 10,000-square-foot facility but was completed at 14,500 square feet after former fire-paramedic chief Reid Douglas ordered changes to the design.

Why repeat all these facts, as reported in an audit that's not even a month old? Simply put, this information would have to be repeated if a ribbon-cutting ceremony is ever held at Station No. 11.

Katz has said repeatedly public safety and infrastructure are the municipal electorate's top two concerns.

That knowledge, gained through polling, is a big reason Winnipeg has four brand-new fire-paramedic stations, two new regional police stations, a police helicopter and a massive new police headquarters, itself over-budget to the tune of $76 million.

When politicians build things in an effort to gain our gratitude, they better stand up and be counted when the process gets screwed up. So in the absence of an opening ceremony for the new Station No. 11, please consider this column an appropriate form of publicity.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2013 B1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Fringe, space motifs trendy for teens heading back to school

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott.

Bartley appears every second Wednesday on CityTV’s Breakfast Television. His work has also appeared on CBC Radio and in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, explore magazine and Western Living.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives
Email: bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google