Right in the centre - Delay, delay, delay!


Ken Waddell
Neepawa Banner & Press

Seems that I have titled a column that way before. That may well be true but it seems that delaying action is a recurring trait and especially so for councils. The Town of Neepawa has fallen into one of the worst and most costly delays in the history of Neepawa. The recently announced and much needed new fire hall is the result of a decision that was delayed for close to 20 years. 

Full disclosure: For almost seven of those years, I was mayor of Neepawa. That said, while this column might be mistaken for an election announcement, I do not plan to run for council again.

The new fire hall is tendered out and is scheduled to be built within a year or so. It is to cost $2.6 million and it will be a fortunate thing indeed if it doesn’t go higher. It is long over due and way more expensive than it should have been.

Twenty years ago, the current firehall was already inadequate. The building had started to go into irrecoverable disrepair but more importantly, it was simply too small for several fire trucks, the equipment and 24 firefighters.

The trucks barely fit through the doors and it could be easily argued that the building was hardly safe for human occupancy. I can well remember meeting with the council and the firefighters and asking for progress on a new firehall. No such luck. There simply wasn’t the will of council to proceed. It would have cost half a million dollars and council (and staff) could’t get their heads around that dollar figure. Delay some more.

Then there were endless annual meetings with the RCMP to try and work out a deal for a new building that would hold an ambulance garage, a police station and the firehall. Needless to say, the RCMP said they did not have any money and wanted little or no rental increase so that idea went nowhere but took years to die. For many years councils met the RCMP brass each fall at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities meetings (AMM) and danced around the fact that the RCMP have no money. At times in those years, the RCMP threatened to move their headquarters to Minnedosa but that didn’t happen, at least not yet.

The RHA went ahead years ago and built an ambulance garage on their own at Country Meadows. So for years the delays, were seemingly endless. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the firehall could have been built in 2000 for about half a million dollars. It would have been paid for by now and the extra $2million the project will now cost could have been used for other much needed infrastructure.

There is lots of blame to go around but Neepawa’s taxpayers have not been served well by the endless delays. To this councils credit, it looks like the firehall will be built, but at a huge cost overrun from what it could have been and should have been built. In 2013, the Town of Neepawa could have bought the former MazerGroup building for $1 million and it would have given more than adequate space. Public Works could have used the extra space and renovations would have been a lot cheaper than the difference in the cost that is being imposed today.

We desperately need a new fire hall but we desperately needed it in 2000. Some of the delays can be blamed on staff, some on government regulations. But this decision, like every decision that a council makes or delays comes down to a vote. There was never enough votes to get a new firehall and there should have been. 

Sometimes councillors and staff are like bankers, they lay awake at night figuring out new ways to say “no”. 

The lack of infrastructure development in Neepawa has not resulted only from a lack of money.There has been considerable money in reserves, there has been considerable money in the line of credit. There has always been need and there always will be, but delaying action only costs more money and the firehall is the latest and most blatant example. It’s only a year until the next election and if communities are happy they can vote for delays. If they aren’t happy then they know what to do.