Winnipeg's fire chief insists that rising construction costs and project delays are driving up the cost of a fire hall under construction, not the design changes he ordered to the project.
Reid Douglas tried to explain to councillors Monday how Station 11 on Portage Avenue at Route 90 is already $2.3 million over budget.
He said he only found out about the increases late this summer.
"We found out on the ninth of August when we met with the builders that there was going to be a significant cost increase due to two years post-design and increased construction costs and the way the project was rolling out," Douglas said.
Douglas insisted the cost overruns had nothing to do with changes to the building's design that he approved that increased the size of the facility by 3,500 square feet.
Douglas said he informed the city's chief financial officer, Phil Sheegl, about the increases right away.
"We immediately went to the CFO. Met with the CFO, advised him of what our concerns were, and he gave us a way forward. Said we need to go to council, we need to present an over-expenditure report."
Councillors peppered Douglas and Sheegl about the cost overruns.
Coun. Paula Havixbeck, head of the city's protection committee, asked how the facility was only half-built, but almost twice the size originally planned, and more than two million dollars over budget, but got few answers.
"We've spent two hours answering questions on this. There are still a lot of missing pieces in this report," she said.
Her frustration was evident. "I still don't know the breakdown of what the actual costs were for," she said.
Some councillors suggested Sheegl did a poor job overseeing the project, but he said it's too early to talk about blame.
"The mayor and the auditor have called for a review and an audit of the process," he said.
"When I have all the answers and all the facts, then I will draw my conclusions, as opposed to somebody jumping out in front of it now and drawing their own conclusions on speculations they're not sure of."
Douglas said if the city doesn't come up with the money to cover the cost overruns, the contractor and the developer building the fire hall are on their own.
"He currently has a structural permit to build a structure, but they are building on their own risk right now because they do not have a contract with us," Douglas said.
The fire chief and the CAO will go before council's executive policy committee next Monday, as the mayor's cabinet reviews the project.
Eventually, city councillors will have to vote on the cost overruns. They could opt to have the partially-completed fire station completely redesigned.