North Cowichan’s Financial Plan passed with very little discussion at a May 6 council meeting, but it’s not because there wasn’t discussion to be had. The talking just happened at council’s April 24 special council meeting so there wasn’t much left to say when adoption came at the May 6 meeting.
Of particular note there was a borrowing bylaw passed that saw council amend their financial plan to align with the updated price tag for the new RCMP detachment which is now up to $49 million from $41 million two years ago.
The bylaw would allow North Cowichan to borrow up to $48 million to see the project through, if they need that much.
According to a staff report prepared by Mark Frame, the municipality’s GM of financial and protective services, the new price reflects $6 million more in construction costs (including $930,000 net-zero premium), $1.1 million more in site development and parking and $1 million more in design contingency.
Frame later told council that the initial estimate was in November 2018 and it was just based on a square footage number coming from the RCMP program does to decide the space they need and they required a 50,000 square-foot facility.
He expected it would cost 12 per cent per year after then.
“The longer we let this go the higher it’s going to cost,” Frame said, adding the new estimate is much more detailed.
“This new cost estimate is based on the building that we’re building, the materials that we’re going to be using and all the site costs that relates to it so it’s a much more accurate number. It also has a lot of contingency in it so we shouldn’t have a problem meeting the budget,” Frame explained at April 24th’s special council meeting. “We’re hoping that given the environment that we’re in and that we’re likely at the start of a recession, that pricing should be better. The worst thing we could do is like we did with the pool, have a low ultimate approval number and get part way through the project and then realize wait a minute, we need to borrow again. This is giving us a very generous number to make sure we can meet it.”
Interest rates are trending down as well, Frame noted.
North Cowichan CAO Ted Swabey cautioned council: “I would expect that the budget is as good as we can get now before we go to the electorate but I wouldn’t expect the budget is going to go down. I think it is what it is and we’ll try and manage it as best as we can.”
The new RCMP facility will be a hub detachment that will bring together the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment, Forensic Identification Services, South Island Traffic Services, First Nations Policing and some services of the Shawnigan Lake RCMP detachment under one roof.
The existing North Cowichan/Duncan detachment on Canada Avenue is well past the end of its life.
The building has had ongoing issues with rodents, leaking, flooding, and lack of adequate space.
As well as being in deteriorating condition, the current detachment building is unable to hold the number of officers, prisoners and support staff to meet the needs of a growing community.
While the municipality will be responsible for borrowing the money for the new building, the RCMP and the province have agreed to pick up 60 per cent of the tab, with North Cowichan responsible for the rest.