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Report finds plan to clean up demolition sites in Winnipeg not feasible

A new report says that a plan to bill Winnipeg property owners for cleanup costs following a fire may not be feasible.

Some inner city residents are forced to live beside lots filled with rubble for months and sometimes even years following a fire.

In January, a vacant home on Stella Avenue went up in flames and had to be knocked down.

Eight months later, the debris is still there.

Marc Ragot, a neighbour of the home, said the mess is an eyesore and a magnet for crime

“There are people in there picking scrap. My garage recently got broken into because of people coming into the neighbourhood looking for stuff,” he said.

With several similar piles across the inner city — including a massive one on Sherbrook that has been there since a blaze a year and a half ago –council asked for a report in May on the feasibility of the city cleaning up these sites and charging the property owner the costs on their tax bills.

This came after a motion from Coun. Cindy Gilroy, who wants the sites cleared up within six months.

“The neighbours here deserve to have this cleaned up,” she said.

However, the report says that when it comes to demolitions caused by fires or emergency events, this idea is not feasible. This is because restoring the sites could expose costly hazards, including asbestos removal, and foundation and basement excavations.

The report says the cleanup price tag could be worth more than the property, so even if the city took them over for failure to pay the taxes, there is no guarantee the city would be made whole.

“I was disappointed in the report. What I really want to see is movement on getting this rubble removed,” Gilroy said.

The report suggests a fund or reserve would be required to pay for the costs. Since one does not exist, Gilroy said the city needs to come up with fees or fines for such a fund.

“We need to find a mechanism in order to get this done, it feels a little like the run around,” Gilroy said.

Ragot agrees.

“It seems like a bunch of talk, people are getting fed up,” he said.

The report will be discussed at next week’s community services committee.

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