Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt laid the blame for delays in building an underpass on Plessis Road at the feet of city staff hired by the city's former Chief Administrative Officer, Phil Sheegl.

Sheegl quit abruptly last fall, just days before a scathing audit into firehall land swap deals was released that named him as a key figure responsible for the mess. 

Wyatt confirmed the $77 million Plessis underpass project may be delayed until 2015 in order to give the city time to negotiate the temporary relocation of two pipelines with two oil companies. 

"We had a CAO who I believe was not qualified," Wyatt said Wednesday. "The pattern is incompetence hires incompetence. And now we are seeing the outcome in terms of project after project and different issues we are running into."  

Wyatt said the legacy of the civil servants Sheegl hired is an issue the next mayor is going to have to deal with.

"It's going to take five to 10 years to rebuild a professional civil service in this city," he said.

Wyatt said the city needs a strong, qualified CAO to run the bureaucracy.

The search to replace Phil Sheegl will take at least another two months.

Residents, businesses balk at delay

Local residents like Leo Dolan aren't happy the construction project that has shut down Plessis Road between Pandora Avenue and Dugald Road will extend even further into the future than expected.

"I think that's a shame," Dolan said Wednesday. "There's an awful lot of people out of the way because of that."

Pharmacist Christian Onyebuchi said having Plessis shut down is already costing businesses money.

"We depend on people coming through here for business," Onyebuchi said. "The more we delay, the more it sucks for everybody."

Mayor worried about losing funding

Mayor Sam Katz said his concern is that the delay will jeopardize provincial and federal funding.

"We are extremely concerned about the potential of losing any funding. That's my number one priority, to make sure we don't lose the funding." 

Katz said there was talk about building a short-term access road, but that could increase the cost. 

"This was an important project that was supported by all three levels of government," he said. "I also know it's extremely important to residents of Transcona and I think it's obvious to most of you that the councillor for the ward is not at all happy for the delay."

He said people have a right to be upset. 

"Any time there's a delay, people get frustrated."