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Council: New cop shop long overdue

Kelowna City Councillors were unanimous - a new RCMP Detachment building for the city is pricey but long overdue.

Council spent nearly an hour Monday afternoon hearing about - and responding to - plans for the $46M detachment building scheduled to open in 2017 on property the city purchased on Clement Avenue three years ago.

The city plans to go to the people with an Alternative Approval Process in January seeking approval to borrow $42,384,000.

Taxpayers would begin feeling the impact of borrowing those funds beginning in 2015. The three year tax increase would be as follows:

  • 2015 - 0.72% - Additional $12.27
  • 2016 - 0.94% - Additional $16.36
  • 2017 - 0.68% - Additional $12.27

Repayment would be over 30 years.

Councillor Robert Hobson noted it's a good time to be borrowing saying rates through the Municipal Finance Authority are pretty good right now.

"It's not a bad time to borrow if you want to spread the cost of a major capital facility out over several generations," says Hobson.

As for the tax increases the next council could be saddled with, Hobson says that council could look at it as separate from the normal tax rate.

"If you were to take your normal 2% and take 0.7% off that you are going to be cutting back on other essential services as well," says Hobson.

"In my view this is an essential community priority which is going to have to be an add-on to future council budgets. It's painful but that's the way it has to be."

The RCMP has long since outgrown the current Doyle Avenue detachment built 51 years ago when the city had a population of just 14,000.

Several components including traffic, identification, forensics, exhibits and storage were moved off-site several years ago.

Kevin Van Vliet, manager of utility and building projects, says those components would be returned to the new detachment.

At $46M, Van Vliet says much of the cost is mandated through the RCMP in terms of security features and disaster components.

"The building needs to be highly secure being an RCMP building. There are some security precautions that need to be taken," says Van Vliet.

"The cell block which, while it's just 10 per cent of the overall space is a little over 20 per cent of the cost."

The cells themselves cost approximately $200,000 each.

He says the building is also supposed to survive and operate after an earthquake which adds a structural cost.

In an effort to save money Van Vliet says the city has undertaken what is known as a Design Build process.

With that process, Van Vlient says the city will be able to fix costs earlier in the process.

Typically, Van Vliet says the don't know how much a project will cost until it's been tendered for construction.

"With design build we get a fixed price from a contractor earlier than that before the detailed design is underway which helps council and helps the city in reducing financial risk," says Van Vliet.

"Most importantly as far as the overall cost is the competition or the competitive design that is builder driven. Generally that results in efficiencies. It also maximized the learnings from the private sector, the contractors and the design teams. Because it is competitive, it helps ensure they are all sharpening their pencils because they all want the work."

The current detachment on Doyle Avenue is not up to RCMP standards and, whether the taxpayers say yes to borrowing the money or not, a new detachment will be constructed.

Van Vliet says having some control over construction will allow the city to control some costs as opposed to being handed a bill.

Council recently toured the current detachment and Councillor Colin Basran says they are completely unacceptable.

"That's being polite. It's really bad," says Basran.

"Obviously none of us are happy with the price tag but we could have this building for us and just be sent the bill. With the plan outlined by staff we can at least have some cost certainty because we know this building has to be built."

Council still has yet to decide what will become of the city owned land where the current detachment sits.

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