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This article was published 18/7/2019 (185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A near-30 per cent increase to city hall’s legal services budget was one of the highlights of Thursday’s marathon session of Winnipeg council.
Council approved a $1-million increase to its legal department only weeks after passing its $3.5-million budget for the year.
Councillors had been prepared for a $600,000 increase to the department budget, necessary to cover hiring outside legal counsel for upcoming litigation, which city officials refuse to disclose. However, the additional appropriation jumped another $400,000 Thursday morning on the heels of the sudden resignation this week of the head of legal services, Krista Boryskavich.
Finance chairman Coun. Scott Gillingham said some of the additional appropriations are necessary to conduct a job search to replace Boryskavich, as well as costs for hiring more outside counsel.
Gillingham later released a list of some of the casework that prompted the budget bump but stayed mum on some others.
Coun. Ross Eadie questioned why the department hadn’t included the additional costs in its original budget submissions, but added unexpected increases are becoming the norm after years of budget-cutting.
Among the legal cases the city is prepared to disclose that warranted the budget increase:
• Retain Fillmore Riley on a lawsuit filed by Terracon against the City of Winnipeg. The litigation concerns the city’s decision to wind down a joint venture that had been proposed for the development of Prairie Industrial Park.
• Marr Finlayson Pollock LLP has been engaged for litigation relating to the Winnipeg Police Service’s Graham Avenue headquarters.
• Engage MLT Aikins on a lawsuit filed by Emterra Environmental against the city alleging a number of contractual issues stemming from its previous garbage and recycling collection contract.
THURSDAY’S meeting of council was the last before summer recess. The next scheduled meeting of council is Sept. 26.
Also approved by council:
• The $6.8-million contract for the year-long demolition of the former Public Safety Building and the adjacent civic parkade.
• Coun. Kevin Klein received council support to review its budget process. Klein has been critical of the current process and wanted the four-year budget initiative paused. Instead, council agreed to look at some of the alternative methods suggested by Klein, including zero-based budgeting and department operational reviews.
• The gravel parking lot opposite the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was declared surplus and eligible for sale. Council plans to sell the property, known as Parcel 4, to The Forks as part of its ambitious Railside mixed-use development plans.
• Owners of the 201 Portage Ave. office tower were given the green light to redevelop the covered sidewalk that runs along the Main Street side of the building for a new tenant.
• A new bylaw sets the default speed limit across the city at 50 km/h unless otherwise posted. The move came in the face of continued pressure from a group of speed-reduction advocates who want the default limit reduced to 30 km/h. Only Coun. Vivian Santos voted against the plan, arguing the city needs to lower its speed limit immediately. The administration was directed to review the default speed limit and develop a public process to alter street speeds for later this fall. The bylaw also lowers the speed limit on a stretch of Marion Street to 50 km/h from 60 km/h.
• The Assiniboine Park Conservancy was given an extension on its council-backed loan guarantee for its Diversity Gardens project. Council approved increasing the guarantee to $20 million from the current $17 million, and adding an additional three years to term, pushing the deadline to the end of 2023.
— Aldo Santin
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.