Do we really need a police headquarters costing $34 million?

Posted January 14, 2014

First, guelphspeaks is a supporter of the police. But there have been recent incidents that complicate the dependence on public safety and its costs.

A writer in the website posted a telling comparison that should register with all Guelph taxpayers.

In the piece, the writer equated the $34 million cost of the proposed Guelph police headquarters with Toronto. If the City of Toronto embarked on the same population base and criteria for the proposed new Guelph police station, the cost would be $1 billion.

Does that not give you reason to question this proposal, made by the Guelph Police Services Board, that includes membership of Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper?

Setting aside their involvement in this request, how does it compute with spending $9 million on the huge public services building on Clair Road? In fact, the cops have announced they are they are pulling out of their 10,000 square foot share of the facility.

If all the police and administration staff were lumped into that facility, it would provide 31.25 square feet per employee. Yep, that’s too tight and doesn’t allow for parking, cells and prisoner processing, labs, information technology facilities, interrogation rooms, training facilities, gym, male and female change rooms, executive offices, boardroom or public areas. But $34 million?

Council has already approved the $34 million. Surprised? The holdback on the extra $20 million is a 120-day window for the city financial wizards to meet with their counterparts on the police administration side to study how to reduce the costs and other alternatives.

Now remember, council has already approved the $34 million, pending the outcome of the staff examination of the costs of this project.

Where do the interests of the taxpayer rest?

Of course, it is with Mayor Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper. They are on the Guelph Police Services Board as elected representatives of the taxpayers. If they don’t know the impact of this huge expenditure on city finances, who does?

Our Mayor, during the discussion about this project, said that the Police Services Board could use undisclosed legislative power to force the city to pay. Therefore, there is no alternative.

Is this why citizens elected Karen Farbridge? To roll over in the face of a veiled threat that the council had no alternative. And she was the cheerleader in convincing her cohorts to pass the resolution and funding the entire project as proposed by the Guelph Police Services Board.

Do not depend on the 120-day staff consultation exercise to change this. They have their orders and this is nothing but a public relations exercise to placate the maddening (sic) crowd.

So on March 8, the staff will report, in camera, that there could be some tinkering to the police headquarters plan, but any changes had to be approved by the non-elected Guelph Police Services Board.

Here’s a real alternative. Sell the property now occupied by the police. Build a 50,000 square foot addition to the Clair Road station to accommodate headquarters staff. That would bring the total to 60,000 square feet. At $400 a square foot, the addition cost would be $20 million. It would include sheltered prisoner exchange, some covered parking and up-to-date required amenities that a modern police service requires.

Sell the existing police headquarters property to lower the cost of expansion and reinvest in public safety operations.

Is a police presence important downtown? Yes. But put a street-front station in the retail area downtown to serve that area. There is no need for administration staff, special units or senior officers to be ensconced downtown.

This is 2014, communications and mobility have drastically changed law enforcement.  Police already have patrols throughout the city. Why do they have to pivot from downtown? Or is this another part of the Farbridge plan to turn the downtown into a “vibrant” space for all residents?

You be the judge.

All this, if accepted, must be open to all bids and the public informed of the outcome.

Let’s not have a repeat of the cover-up of the deal made over the $33 million organics waste processing facility or the $15 million to force residents to accept a waste cart collection system that fails to serve 13 per cent of households and businesses.





Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “Do we really need a police headquarters costing $34 million?

  1. Marg

    This is more a question than a comment. Is there information available which one could read about what planning and research has been done to arrive at the request of the Police Services Board? Has there been a look at alternatives, such as the one you suggested?

    • Marg: The $30 million upward revision of the police headquarters renovation was conducted by the Police Services Board with input from an architect. As I have pointed out, council has already approved spending the $34 million. There is a 120 day window for the city financial team and their Police Services counterparts to investigate alternatives and reduction in capital costs. Experience dictates that this exercise, while good for public relations, will end up with a zero outcome. Voila! the project will proceed. Of course there alternatives but I’m afraid this goose has already been cooked.

  2. So-Sad

    One of the problems we have at the Municipal level is that the Police services Board can appeal any financial request that is rejected at the Municipal Level to a Police Services Board that will support the Cops request.
    I do not know which incompetent level of Gov’ t put this on the books but they should be red-faced about their stupidity!
    We need to get rid of the Liberals who McSquinty and Never-Wynne have completely screwed up and will have to endure another 10 years in the political wilderness – if not MORE!!!

    • So-Sad: Building on your thoughts, the Guelph Police Services Board is composed of a majority of chosen, unelected members. Only the Mayor and Coun. Leanne Piper are elected by the people to represent their interests in the management of police services. My question is: Where was the Mayor in the last seven years, sitting on that board and not thinking of the financial consequences this escalation of costs to provide a new headquarters would impact on the municipality’s finances? The police need adequate facilities to carry out their responsibilities as public servants. But the Mayor’s threat (read that excuse), stating that the council has no choice but to accept the $34 million cost. Because, she said, the Police Services Board can appeal to the province and force the city to pay. Instead, council knuckled under and approved it. It is a shameful example of political cowardice and loss of financial control by our elected officials. Remember this next October 27 when the people get the opportunity to change the way our city is being run.

  3. Marg

    Gerry, I appreciate your response. I’m disappointed to hear that the entire process has involved only the Police Services Board and an architect. In my opinion, the scope of such a project requires expertise in many areas, of the planning and design stages.That explains the “surprise” increases in costs. Why has the administration of this city hired consultants and fought in court over issues costing taxpayers far less.
    The public health building comes to mind.

  4. geo

    By way of a petition which is being advertised on radio, taxpayers in KW are attempting to halt construction of the LRT.
    Could the same thing be done here?

    • Geo: I think GrassRoots Guelph is already on it with its petition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting an audit of the city finances and operations. The Farbridge gang claim the city is already being audited. I understand that audit is limited to examining line items exceeding $300,000. It also does not examine the correlation of finances and operations.

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