RCMP seek commitment from council on police building

A new RCMP building must be built within the next five years.

A new RCMP building must be built within the next five years.

At least that is what Insp. Glen De Goeij, with RCMP K Division, told Ponoka town councillors Aug. 27. He explained the need for a new building and how upgrading the current detachment does not sit in line with the RCMP’s plans.

Council has been told the town needs a new RCMP detachment as the current one is nearing the end of its life and officers are packed in to the building. The upstairs portion houses municipal and rural officers while the basement houses the integrated traffic unit.

De Goeij referred to a recent study by Stephens Kozaks ACI Architects that provided three scenarios: $6.6 million for a new building, $2.9 million for a major renovation; and $1 million for a minor upgrade. He wants a new building because an upgrade would not be worth the cost. “It will not give us the number of years to recoup your investment.”

Parking space is one concern and being close to residential areas and a school is another. The RCMP has moved away from having detachments close to the downtown core as there are inherent risks when officers need to drive to an emergency.

And then the costs provided in the upgrades are not actual costs.

“The estimates are just what they are, estimates,” added De Goeij.

This discussion happened once before though; De Goeij met with town council in 2009 and said Ponoka needed to start saving for a new RCMP detachment.

“We felt that we had a direction and now this is new information to us,” said De Goeij.

He needs to know what council wants to do with this project as K Division and the Government of Alberta need to plan for the expense.

“We are quite willing to look and work with a working committee,” said De Goeij.

He understands the expenses the town must consider as well and suggests K Division will work closely with the town to ensure the project can move forward. There could be some office upgrades in the basement to make room for the integrated traffic unit and he estimates the cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, which would buy the town two years.

Borrowing money with a debenture reduces the town’s ability to borrow, said Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services.

The shared cost is usually over a 20-year period De Goeij explained and the province also pays a portion of the interest if the project is debentured.

He needs a decision to start planning and suggested even if council made a decision that same day, the building will not be completed for at least two or three years.

The current proposed site at 6711 Highway 53 is an ideal space. “I would just hate to see that land all of a sudden go to some other purpose.”

Quinlan feels a five-year time frame would be a better option. “For three years I can see it being really tight.”

Redoing the basement is a reasonable plan, added De Goeij, as long as there is a caveat or promise to build a new detachment.

Coun. Loanna Gulka, who is on the protective services committee, suggests the group needs to meet with the RCMP and come up with a plan for council. “We need to sit down with you guys and come to some kind of arrangement.”

De Goeij wants one as soon as possible. “If somebody’s back here in five years and we’re having the same discussion then we’ve all not done our jobs.”

Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm does not anticipate additional staff besides the new school resource officer for the detachment. He suggests council should follow the trends in crime statistics over recently. “I don’t see any growth for the next three, four or five years.”

He advises council also speak with him over the future plans for a new detachment as the integrated traffic unit has 11 members with nine desks. This was the first time Chisholm heard of minor renovations in the basement. “If you ask them the question if they need more room you might get a different answer.”

“I’d be more concerned about the mechanical systems and the electrical systems,” said Chisholm.

Workstation space for Mounties has been reduced and the only person who should actually have a private office is the commanding officer, he added.

Gulka suggested Chisholm attend the meeting with the RCMP building subcommittee and K Division.”