Rona building not suitable for new RCMP detachment

It was determined this building was not an appropriate site to house the new RCMP detachment.

Rona building not suitable for new RCMP detachment

Re: Joe Sawchuk’s letter: “Feasibility study should be done on old RONA building for police station” (Citizen, Oct. 25). It’s time to clear up a few misconceptions.

The central point of Mr. Sawchuk’s letter appears to be the notion — as he himself writes in the last sentence of his missive — that “before spending any more taxpayers dollars [North Cowichan should] do a feasibility study on the vacant Rona building.”

The fact is that last year, the municipality consulted an architect to determine whether the Rona building could work for this use. It was determined this building was not an appropriate site to house the new RCMP detachment. There were several reasons for this, mostly related to the RCMP requirements for the build. In order to meet those standards (over which we have no control), we would essentially have to construct a “secure building” inside the existing shell of the Rona building. Doing that work would be very complex and potentially more costly than building a new detachment. Additionally, the way these buildings are funded, North Cowichan would be 100 per cent responsible for the $10 million dollar cost of acquiring the property. The RCMP would only contribute to the renovation costs. (In contrast to the $10 million dollar outlay for the Rona property, we only paid $1 million for the Ford Road property, and we paid that in cash out of reserve funds).

The building was also considerably larger than what the RCMP would need, which would potentially have left the municipality in the position of competing with the private sector in leasing out commercial space; that’s not generally a place we like to be. In addition to that, based on conversations with the Ministry of Transportation, it seemed highly unlikely that they would allow for a left-hand turn northbound onto the Trans Canada Highway at Green Road. This would potentially leave us with police cruisers responding through the Commons parking lot north to Drinkwater Road with lights-a-blazing to respond to calls north of the detachment.

A few more points to clear up any misconceptions about the funding for this detachment. The building will be paid for based on the number of members and staff occupying the building. This will be a “blended” detachment with both municipal and provincially-funded officers and staff. North Cowichan will have approximately 44 staff, the combined provincial staff will be 68, so the RCMP will be responsible for 61 per cent of the cost of the new detachment (excluding the land cost). That means North Cowichan will have to borrow the full $41 million dollar cost of the building but the RCMP will enter into a lease that includes repaying 61 per cent of that borrowed money. North Cowichan will be responsible for repaying the remaining 39 per cent. The net effect is the same as if North Cowichan was borrowing $16 million dollars.

We have sought efficiencies on this project wherever possible, including an initiative to work with the City of Fort St. John, who are at the same stage of design/construction as us on an almost identically-sized detachment. The contracts for the design consultants and project managers for both sites were awarded last month, and we have the same companies working on both projects. The hope is that this will realize some efficiencies and economies of scale.

A new RCMP building is long overdue. I first toured the present detachment in 2009; it was substandard then with issues of moisture, mould, and overcrowding. I’m really looking forward to finally getting our officers into a modern facility that is more suited to their needs. We hope to start construction on this project some time next year.

Al Siebring, mayor

North Cowichan

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