A resident living in the inner-city area of Winnipeg has been advocating for measures to address abandoned and destroyed buildings in her community. She expresses doubt about the effectiveness of a task force proposed by the city in bringing about tangible results.
Vivian Ketchum witnessed demolition crews removing debris from the intersection of William Avenue and Furby Street on Friday. This location was the site of a fire that devastated an apartment building in July 2021.
In Ketchum’s vicinity and throughout the city, there are multiple locations where buildings that have been partially demolished remain untouched for extended periods of time until they are eventually cleared.
“It was awful,” Ketchum said in an interview on Monday, standing outside the security fence surrounding the rubble pile, which had been pushed open.
“As time passed, individuals started littering… and there is a warning sign indicating the presence of hazardous substances.”
Task force motion
On Friday, the property and development committee made a decision to establish a task force to address troublesome properties, including those in Ketchum’s community. City staff has been instructed by the motion to assess the structure and purpose of the task force and provide a report within three months.
It came in response to a motion from Daniel McIntyre Coun. Cindy Gilroy, who had called on the city to clean up demolished buildings after the owners had failed to do it themselves, and add the costs to the property tax bill.
The city was advised in a report that the expenses for carrying out the cleanups might surpass the amount the city could recover through seizing and selling the property. As a result, the city required a reserve fund to cover the costs of the work.
The city already has a problem properties committee — made up of city staff, councillors and community members — but property and development chair Coun. Sherri Rollins says the task force is not simply the same thing under a new name.
While the committee is accountable to the chief administrative officer, council members would oversee the activities of the task force.
The property and development committee received a motion from Marcus Chambers, urging the city to perform necessary repairs to address health and safety concerns. However, the committee recommended no further action and simply acknowledged the motion for informational purposes.
More than a name
Rollins maintained that the proposals from both Gilroy and Chambers were not rejected, but rather they had the potential to be incorporated into the new task force’s efforts.
“Instead of councillors being dissatisfied and writing motions that we have one focused effort … It is the open door to all of council, and indeed the whole of the city to to focus on problematic properties,” she told reporters following the meeting on Friday.
On Monday, Ketchum expressed skepticism towards the task force’s notion.
“They had previously established a committee, but now they refer to it as a task force,” she stated.
I am not very optimistic. I desire to witness proactive measures rather than individuals idly sitting or engaging in paperwork… I am exhausted from residing in a neighborhood that emits unpleasant odors, is unclean, and poses a danger. However, I am still living here while the task force remains inactive.
On Tuesday, the public works committee will discuss another city report calling on the province to change legislation to allow the city to add outstanding fines under the Municipal By-law Enforcement Act and the Provincial Offences Act to property taxes.
The city is requesting that the Registrar of Motor Vehicles deny renewal or issuance of licenses to individuals who have unpaid fines.
If approved, the proposal, along with the task force, will proceed to the council for a final vote at the end of this month.