Fire chief says he has verbal agreement on land swap
The head of Winnipeg's Fire Paramedic Service says he has a verbal agreement with a local developer on a land swap involving old fire halls, including a vacant one that was being marketed before the deal was done.
Shindico had prematurely listed Fire Station No. 12, a former fire hall at 1710 Grosvenor Ave., earlier this summer as an office property for lease.
City officials had initially said the old hall had not been declared surplus, meaning it's still city property, but they later said the fire department had negotiated a land swap with Shindico.
Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas told CBC News he believes he has driven a good deal for city taxpayers.
"It's like trading in a used car for a new car," Douglas said in an interview Monday.
The fire service needed new facilities to replace the Grosvenor Avenue fire hall, as well as another older station on Berry Street, as part of a master plan to modernize or move the city's fire facilities.
Douglas — who at the time was a deputy chief — said he negotiated a deal with Shindico to swap the two older fire halls, plus a parcel of land on Mulvey Avenue, in exchange for a property on Taylor Avenue, where a new fire station now sits.
"I always thought that the more I could do, more of the ground work that I could do, keeps me out of the bureaucracy and going through all the fine details to get back to where I needed to be, anyway," he said.
Did not always follow procedures
Douglas said he and Shindico have a verbal agreement that values the Taylor Avenue land at approximately $1 million.
Barry Thorgrimson, the city's director of property, planning and development department, told CBC News last week that part of the deal was approved by city hall two years ago, and the property is surplus, but the city has yet to transfer the titles over.
Thorgrimson said he had no knowledge of the land swap, and it was not how property arrangements are traditionally handled.
Douglas admits that he did not always follow normal city procedures, but he said he did ask city appraisers to value the land he offered to Shindico.
When asked if the appraisers had told him he would get more value from a land swap than by marketing each property individually, Douglas said yes.
Should the land swap agreement fall through for whatever reason, Douglas said he will ask city council to pay Shindico in cash, but he doubts that will happen.
"A deal's a deal. With a developer, money doesn't mean a lot to a developer, property does," he said.
City council will vote on the land swap when it resumes meetings in the fall.