Fire-hall expansion remains mystery

Approval to boost size still cloudy, Katz says

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Mayor Sam Katz says it's still unclear who supersized fire-paramedic Station No. 11 -- and pleaded for patience for a report that will explain what happened to the Portage Avenue building.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/10/2012 (3583 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Sam Katz says it’s still unclear who supersized fire-paramedic Station No. 11 — and pleaded for patience for a report that will explain what happened to the Portage Avenue building.

City council is awaiting a report about the increased size and scope of Station No. 11, under construction within the northwest cloverleaf of the intersection of Portage Avenue at Route 90. In September, members of executive policy committee were told the station was as much as $2.3 million over-budget.

Last week, Katz said the station had increased in size to 14,000 square feet from 10,500 square feet, but was not sure who authorized the change. Katz told reporters Wednesday he still isn’t sure who issued the change order.

“That question has been asked by myself and many councillors,” Katz said. “Basically, we don’t really have a specific answer, other than the fact this is something they all believed was going to be within the budget.”

Only a handful of city officials — including chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas and project manager Kristine Friesen, a paramedic — could have issued the change order. Katz said the answer will be revealed once the administration completes its report on Station No. 11.

“When the report comes out, the answer will be there. I think you’ll be able to be a little bit more patient and wait for the report and hopefully, you’ll have an answer,” Katz said.

The mayor rejected the notion his friendship with Sheegl could have impaired his ability to get answers on the fire-paramedic file.

“With all due respect, no one else, not one other media has asked me that question. You’re the only one who asked me the question,” Katz said. “Only in your mind is that the case. It may not have anything to do with the CAO.”

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, however, said the CAO must answer for the fire-paramedic service, in the absence of information about the changes to Station No. 11.

“He should be providing us with answers,” Gerbasi said. “Someone should know. These things don’t happen in a vacuum.”

Political and administrative officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Station No. 11 was originally supposed to house some form of museum. When that was rejected, a plan emerged to move a hazardous-materials unit from Station No. 9 in St. Boniface.

The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg criticized that plan, insisting its haz-mat unit must remain in St. Boniface, where there’s a confluence of heavy industry, rail lines and highways.

The city is now considering a plan to move a decontamination unit from Station No. 7 in the Maples, although the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s decontamination equipment is stored on McPhillips Street.

Even though it’s unclear why Station No. 11 was expanded, firefighters could put the extra space to good use, said UFFW president Alex Forrest.

“It’s not the worst thing in the world for the city to build an extra bay, because we have all kinds of uses for that,” he said, referring to the expanded role of the fire-paramedic service, among the first in Canada to cross-train firefighters as paramedics. Another ladder unit could be placed in the station to serve highrise buildings, he added.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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