Fire hall land deal defended by city officials
Mayor asks for full report on what happened
Winnipeg's chief administrative officer says a plan to build four city fire halls, that involved a land swap with a private firm, followed procedures and members of city council were kept informed on what was happening.
Phil Sheegl said council voted in July of 2010 to approve financing for the construction project along with a general plan to make some fire halls redundant and to build new stations in different locations. That vote, he said, provided the authority to city officials to negotiate deals related to the project.
"Once council approves the financing for the overall project ... we have the delegated authority to approve the contract," Sheegl explained to CBC News Friday.
City officials also say administrators have approval to negotiate and sign contracts for the city where the value is under $10 million. The contracts to build the fire halls were separated into four distinct projects, ranging from $3 million to $5 million.
Officials explained that companies could bid on one or all of the projects. As it turned out, the company Shindico, was the only bidder to stick through the entire process that, at one point, had six companies expressing interest in doing the work.
Shindico won the contract.
Sheegl added he will evaluate how city council was kept informed on the deal. However he was confident proper procedures were followed.
"At the end of the day, are there some questions here? Sure," Sheegl said. "I think we're also providing the answers. And it's just a question about transparency."
Friday's information supports comments made earlier this week by Barry Thorgrimson, Winnipeg's the head of Property, Planning and Development, who also insisted officials followed appropriate procedures for the deal.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz issued a statement Friday saying he wants more information on what happened from the administration.
The new information from Sheegl would account for why a search of council's voting record does not show a vote on the overall project and several council members have told CBC News they do not remember a vote on the deal.
"We want fire halls to be built. That's not the issue," council member Jenny Gerbasi, who represents Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, told CBC News Friday. "The issue is integrity, ethics, transparency and that's what's very unclear at this point."
Questions about the fire hall deal arose when it was learned the city had built a new station on land it hadn't purchased yet and Shindico was marketing city property not yet transferred to it.
"It does not look good on the city administration," another council member, Jeff Browaty of North Kildonan, added. "That said the mayor has committed now to make sure that council ... get the full information on it."
Officials said a report would be ready in September.
With files from CBC's Sean Kavanagh