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 grassrootsguelph.com 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.