In the new year, the Town of Ponoka will begin the initial steps of planning for the construction of a new RCMP facility.
Inspector Shane Ramteemal and Ian Skjolden, senior asset manager from K Division presented to council and the need for, and potential cost, of a new RCMP building in Ponoka, saying the project can’t be delayed any longer.
The current building has water issues that have caused computer server issues as well as elevated black mold levels (still within acceptable standards) in the basement. The holding cell block has deficiencies to current standards and there are other Occupational Hazard and Safety (OHS) issues, which the RMCP says are past the point of being able to “fix to resolve.”
There are currently 13 employees working out of the basement, including Integrated Traffic Services and there is a tarp in place as the only defense to protect the servers that control the detachment’s call service.
The process to get a new building, from start to finish, will take four to five years and will cost an estimated $8.5 to $10 million (Based on a recent RCMP building completed in Edmonton and the size of the proposed new building).
“If you have a piece of land that meets our needs, or is close to meeting our needs, we’d work with you to bring that number down,” said Ramteemal.
An RCMP space needs analysis has already been completed. The next step is to find a suitable location, then get a design made and the town’s procurement rules and regulations could make the process faster.
A designer needs to be previously cleared and have RCMP reliability status, or else that process takes six months. The town can select a designer or architect consultant, from a list the RCMP provides to avoid that delay.
From there, the design process could take from nine months to a year. After there is a design, the project will go to tender for a general contractor. Some of the contractors will need security clearance as well, which can also cause delays.
It would take about 18 to 20 months to build a 15,000 square feet RCMP facility., and then three or four months to commission the building, with installing cameras, locks and getting computers up and running, for a total process of four to five years.
The former RCMP building would be decommissioned and turned over to the town in a form that could be utilized for another purpose.
Coun. Carla Prediger asked if in this time of economic duress in Alberta if any grant funding is available.
Ramteemal answered there are none he’s aware of, but that if provincial resources stay the same, in 20 years, the town would recoup 50 per cent of the cost.
The RCMP is funded provincially, not federally, and the more provincial positions at an RCMP detachment, the more funding it is allocated.
Finding a suitable location for an RCMP building is another issue, as there are certain requirements and restrictions. For instance, and RCMP building can’t be within a certain distance from a school for various reasons.
The required size of land is about 2.5 acres, allowing for the building, storage space, and ample parking.
A building needs to be close enough to serve the public, but also have easy access to main highways.
The town’s interim budget, which it passed later in the same meeting, have some provisions for starting the process of getting a new building started.
“We don’t have the $10 million in hand,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett.
“At the same time we do realize we have been looking at this for quite a while.”
According to communication manager Sandra Smith, the current RCMP building is aging and requires annual investment.
In 2019, a number of improvements were made to the building with funds allocated from the town’s building maintenance and investment programs, including a full roof replacement, upgrades to the HVAC (air quality system), air quality testing on the lower level of the building, upgrades to the fire monitoring system, upgrades to electrical/plumbing/fixtures, and improved janitorial service levels in response to changing requirements.
“The current building will need to be replaced at some point, however, with the annual Building Maintenance and Investment Program, the life cycle of the building can be extended to allow adequate time to properly budget for this significant capital project,” said Smith.