A report intended to explain how construction of a fire hall on a Portage Avenue cloverleaf blew its budget instead has fuelled the controversy.
Coun. Paula Havixbeck, chairwoman of council's protection committee, has called a meeting Monday to probe how Station No. 11's cost exploded from $4.3 million to $6.5 million. The station was expanded by 3,500 square feet to include a museum council was unaware of, and when the museum was scratched, a hazardous materials unit, aerial ladder and training facility were quickly added.
There are a string of administrators who should be on the hot seat Monday, including, and especially, chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl. But right beside him is fire Chief Reid Douglas. The report states the fire chief had the authority to order the changes and believed he could find the money within the $15 million set aside for the construction of four fire halls.
This is the $15-million budget that was broken up so each project came in under $5 million and thereby did not need council's approval. It's incredible a department head could have sole authority to sign significant change orders to the scope of a multimillion-dollar project. It's incredible that after breaking up a $15-million budget to skirt council approval, the fire chief then re-bundled them to cover Station No. 11's expansion.
In 2007, the CAO's department hired a manager of capital projects to scrutinize such projects. Ms. Havixbeck must ask where was the oversight of the fire-hall program; whether the CAO stamped Station No. 11's expansion and get a full explanation of how it was thought a project could grow by 33 per cent without going over budget.
A 2008 auditor's report detailed numerous gaps in the city's project management process. The CAO's office said a new capital project manager would fill them. Where was the manager on the fire-halls file? There's a lot of detail to be laid out, but the oversight issue is Mr. Sheegl's to explain.