Local News Briefs

Property tax freeze ends

Mayor Sam Katz has been warning Winnipeggers of the end of the city’s property tax freeze that began in 1998, and on Tuesday Katz unveiled a 3.5 per cent property-tax hike, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. The hike will raise $14.8 million, costing the average homeowner somewhere from $48 to $60 this year. The 2012 operating budget projects $900 million in spending, a $53 million increase from 2011. Much of the budget is eaten up by emergency services. The police and fire-paramedic budgets account for $375 million in spending (42 per cent of the budget) - a $30 million increase from last year.

Demolition begins downtown

Construction crews have commenced a two-month demolition process downtown, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. The former A&B Sound and Wild Planet buildings are being demolished in order for the $70 million redevelopment of the block opposite the MTS Centre to take place. Winnipeg’s Longboat Development Corporation’s project is a hotel-and-commercial undertaking called 311 Portage at Centrepoint. The project includes a five-storey commercial building with a 15-storey tower, which will house an ALT hotel. The commercial building will be home to offices for architecture and engineering firm Stantec, among other firms, and a parkade.

Gerrard criticized by party members

Sandra Hoskins, a member of the Liberal party’s board of directors, has written a scathing blog post that may be directed at party leader Jon Gerrard, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. In the post, Hoskins writes, “You have managed to lead your organization into the fray at least three times and the results have been worse every time.” Although Hoskins says that her comments could be directed at a number of leaders, Gerrard is the only one who has led his team into elections three times and posted a lower percentage of the popular vote each time. Gerrard agreed to step down last December once a replacement was found - however, he may not leave his seat, and may run for the River Heights seat in the 2015 election.

Bendy buses coming to city?

Winnipeg Transit wants to shell out $1.1 million on used “bendy” buses to ease overcrowding on its buses. Winnipeg Transit announced the proposal of adding 20 articulated buses to Winnipeg’s fleet, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. Ottawa traded in their buses in order to purchase new buses, leaving Winnipeg with the chance to purchase the buses at a reduced rate from New Flyer Industries. The buses cost $625,000 new, but the city could purchase the used buses for $53,000 each. City council has yet to approve the purchase. They plan to review the proposal at a meeting next week.

Water and sewer service costs increase

Winnipeg homeowners can expect a $50 increase for water and sewer services this year, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. The upgrade is a result of an order from the province in 2003 to improve the city’s wastewater treatment. The reform plans include renovations to all three of the city’s sewage-treatment plants, as well as replacement of the city’s combined sewers. This year, the city has projected to spend $150 million on a nutrient-removal facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre along with a $17 million biosolids plant. The entire upgrade will cost $1.8 billion over 30 years.

Published in Volume 66, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 7, 2012)

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