The Shawnigan Lake RCMP detachment will soon be replaced and possibly merged with a new North Cowichan/Duncan detachment. (File photo)

The Shawnigan Lake RCMP detachment will soon be replaced and possibly merged with a new North Cowichan/Duncan detachment. (File photo)

Amalgamating Cowichan RCMP detachments still under consideration

Move would see Shawnigan Lake and North Cowichan/Duncan detachments combined

The RCMP and the province are still contemplating building a new central police detachment in the Cowichan Valley.

The hub detachment would combine the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment with the Shawnigan Lake detachment and South Island Traffic Services.

A rough estimate of the cost of the new, combined detachment is approximately $40 million.

A statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said discussions are still ongoing regarding the proposed service delivery change and associated new RCMP detachment building.

“A final decision regarding the proposed service delivery change will be made once consultation with impacted communities and local governments is completed,” the statement said.

“Overall, this policing model would offer a better coordinated service, better information sharing and 24/7 coverage.”

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said the municipality is responsible for providing a headquarters for its RCMP contingent, and he expects council will have some say as to what model the municipality would want for a new detachment.

“From our perspective, the province would want an agreement that would work for both parties,” he said.

“We’re looking at it and the financial implications, but we’re not signed up yet. That decision on whether we would support it will be made by council at a later date.”

North Cowichan chose a five-acre location on Ford Road in 2014 as the location to build a new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, estimated at the time to be about $23 million, that would replace the aging detachment on Canada Avenue, with the costs split between North Cowichan and the province.

The province would cover Duncan’s share of the funding due to its smaller size.

As well, a one-hectare piece of property, located on Shawnigan Mill Bay Road near the Trans Canada Highway, has already been transferred from the Cowichan Valley Regional District to the RCMP for the construction of a new detachment in the Valley’s south end, which is intended to replace the aging detachment at Shawnigan Lake.

But former Liberal Solicitor General Mike Morris said last year that the government was considering amalgamating both detachments instead.

That has raised concerns in the south end that a new, centralized detachment would be located too far away to quickly respond to calls for service in that area.

RELATED STORY: SOUTH COWICHAN RESIDENTS OPPOSE MERGE

Al Siebring, a North Cowichan councillor and member of the municipality’s protective services committee, said that while no final decisions have yet been made on the issue, the municipality must begin preparing for the potential financial implications of such a move in upcoming budgets now.

He said that while it’s still unclear as to what will be decided, North Cowichan has to figure out its options in regards to staffing, space and other issues.

“There would be no choice but to build the detachment according to their specifications and that’s why it would be so expensive, because the province and the RCMP set the rules for its construction,” Siebring said.

“Hopefully, we’ll know what the final decision will be by the end of our term (this fall) so the new council can deal with its funding.”

Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau said she has had many conversations with the current Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on the issue.

“I’ve been advocating for the point of view of the south-end residents that there continues to be a need for a police presence in the south part of Cowichan,” she said.

A staff report in North Cowichan written by finance director Mark Frame states that while a new and larger centralized RCMP detachment would cost more, the municipality’s share of the costs would be reduced.

“A consultant has been retained to prepare cost estimates based on a new RCMP detachment space analysis which will be completed within the next two or three months,” Frame said.

“The RCMP has provided a rough cost of $40 million and this would result in a tax increase of $1.1 million to $1.2 million per year phased in over 2019, 2020 and 2021.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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