June 25, 2019

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'It is convenient' for city to blame budget woes on snow: construction association head

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Doug McNeil, the city's chief administration officer, said the $9.5 million budget shortfall is due to the snow clearing needed after storms earlier in the season.</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Doug McNeil, the city's chief administration officer, said the $9.5 million budget shortfall is due to the snow clearing needed after storms earlier in the season.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/3/2017 (837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The cost to clear December's record snowfall is putting a chill on the city's capital budget.

But the head of the organization that represents the heavy construction industry says that's a snow job.

Doug McNeil, the city's chief administration officer, said the $9.5 million budget shortfall due to the snow clearing needed after the storm now means bureaucrats have been tasked with poring through the city's capital budget to see if they can find 'cash to capital' projects that can be postponed or reprioritized to put the budget back in the black.

"A lot of projects are under design and, if approved by council to postpone them to another calendar year, that design work is not a waste," McNeil said. "It would happen next year."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/3/2017 (837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The cost to clear December's record snowfall is putting a chill on the city's capital budget.

But the head of the organization that represents the heavy construction industry says that's a snow job.

Doug McNeil, the city's chief administration officer, said the $9.5 million budget shortfall due to the snow clearing needed after the storm now means bureaucrats have been tasked with poring through the city's capital budget to see if they can find 'cash to capital' projects that can be postponed or reprioritized to put the budget back in the black.

"A lot of projects are under design and, if approved by council to postpone them to another calendar year, that design work is not a waste," McNeil said. "It would happen next year."

These projects include everything from replacing trees lost to Dutch Elm Disease, creating a 25-year Parks Strategic Master Plan, buying land for the Waverley West community campus, building new docks in Gerald Lynch Park, and replacing windows in the Station 4 firehall in Osborne Village.

McNeil said because the mayor and city council approved the capital budget, it will be up to them to vote to accept any changes to the work.

But Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, and a former city councillor himself, questioned why the city was blaming the snow for its budget shortfall.

"In Winnipeg there are at least three things that are certain: death, taxes and snow," he said.

"It is convenient to blame snow to explain expenditures... but we're called Winterpeg for a reason. (Snow) is always a surprise to council. It is like the province being surprised when there is a flood. This is a failure to properly budget and reasonably project expenditures."

Lorenc cautioned Mayor Brian Bowman and city councillors not to think slowing down infrastructure replacement will save money in the long run.

Lorenc said city council ignored both a 1999 report showing the city's infrastructure deficit was $80 million, and another showing it had grown to $7 billion in 2011.

"If they now want to reject what happened before - and expect a different result - then they are following Einstein's theory of insanity by doing something over and over again and expecting a different result," he said.

"If we don't learn from history we can't plan for the future."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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