Mayor admits mistakes in fire hall land swap
After three weeks of controversy over a land swap deal involving fire halls, Winnipeg's mayor admits serious mistakes were made.
The city has built a new fire hall on Taylor Avenue on land it has yet to purchase from property development company Shindico.
In exchange, the verbal agreement gives Shindico two vacant city fire halls, plus a parcel of land on Mulvey Avenue, in exchange for the Taylor land.
A financial review of the deal, requested by Mayor Sam Katz, should be ready for councillors to look at in about 10 days.
Councillors will then have to vote on whether to buy the Taylor land from Shindico, negotiate a land swap, or come up with another solution like expropriating the land.
"The real problem that I see in this situation, and there could be many, but the fact is we have built a fire paramedic station on a piece of land that we don't own," Katz said on Wednesday.
"We do have a caveat on it. There was an understanding of people acting in good faith. But that [building on land not yet owned] really should not happen."
A number of city councillors have already said they plan to vote against the land swap deal.
"I certainly can't support something like this based on thin air or whatever we've been given to explain it," Coun. Jenny Gerbasi has said, adding she wants an audit of the deal.
Even a member of Katz's inner circle, the executive policy committee, has said it's time to get an outside party to look at the swap.
Coun. Dan Vandal said the financial review that katz called for isn't enough.
He said the credibility of the public process has been shaken, and the only way to get it back is to go to an outside auditor.
"I think to restore public confidence we have to go over and above, we have to go the next level, and I think that makes the most sense, he said.
"Just let's get an external auditor to look at it and let us know what he finds."
Vandal said he's not implying anyone did anything wrong, but that the city is dealing with public money and needs to be credible.
"I just think it's something we need to do to restore credibility for our city processes. We are dealing with public assets; we're dealing with public dollars."