Police HQ debate set to flare up again


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The debate over whether to renovate the existing police station or construct a new, purpose-built facility will flare into life again Monday as city council deals with a report from The Ventin Group Architects.
The firm will present a pair of options to be considered should council choose to maintain the police service in the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
Trouble is, both scenarios are pricey — $15 million at the low end to $18.4 million for a major renovation/expansion.
The Ventin report details the substantial amount of work required with either option to upgrade the 1969 building.

These include upgrades to the electrical systems to conform to the latest applicable codes with uniform energy-efficient illumination and required lighting levels.
The existing elevator is not in a secure location and has exceeded its life expectancy, does not service all floors and does not meet current accessibility standards.
JUSTICE BUILDING JPG
The tab for this alone is estimated at $1.2 million.
Likewise, washrooms throughout the facility do not meet accessibility requirements.
So, anywhere from $15 to $18 million to upgrade the existing HQ, or an estimated $20 million to construct a new HQ on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre.
When you consider the city will have paid down the Timken Centre next year, why not borrow funds at an attractive rate and move ahead with a new police facility and apply the approximately $900,000 a year Timken payment to this debt.
No negative impact whatsoever on ratepayers and no worries about costly renovations to a 45-year-old building perched on contaminated land.

BIG DOINGS AT THE HOSPITAL
An email landed in the inbox this week to alert that 390 members in two different bargaining units have voted for OPSEU as their official bargaining representative at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
The 260 members of the STEGH Service Unit (formerly Unifor members) and 117 non-union employees of the Office and Clerical Unit join the 10 OPSEU Service Unit members and three OPSEU office and clerical members who transferred from St. Joseph’s Health Care in London.
What this will do is freeze everyone’s contract as they are, advises David Kerr, president of the St. Thomas and District Labour Council, and they will all be looking at going into negotiations with the employer as a new local.
This process should begin early in the new year.

MAYOR’S SUMMIT
A full house this past Monday at the Seniors Centre for the forum to establish residential care home standards for St. Thomas/Elgin.
Currently there are no community-wide standards for these homes which are intended “to support vulnerable adults with special needs to maintain safe housing and to access supports, both in the home and community, which foster and promote independence and social inclusion,” according to the draft report.
In order to qualify for funding under the city’s residential group homes program, residences that provide supported or long-term care in St. Thomas would be required to comply with these standards.
What is disturbing are items not included in the initial draft report, or areas of concern that required clarification.
For example, added to the document was the proviso the operator of a domiciliary home must ensure staff have “an understanding of psychiatric disabilities, fire and safety procedures and various types of medication.”
Also added, the requirement “All sanitary facilities must be in good repair. All tenants must have 24-hour access to washrooms.”
In a similar vein, the final report to be presented to council this month stresses “Soiled linens must be removed immediately from bedrooms and bathrooms. When occupancy of a bed changes, linens must be changed and beds cleaned.”
The standards agreed upon will form part of the service agreement between the city and residential care home operators.
Elizabeth Sebestyen, social housing administrator at Ontario Works, deserves recognition for her efforts to ensure a living environment that is safe and supportive for all tenants of residential care homes.

JASON MCCOMB UPDATE
We talked with the advocate for the homeless on Friday in Kingston. He has firmed up plans to meet with Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston late Monday afternoon at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill.
He will then depart for London, via train, and walk back to St. Thomas some time next week.
As mentioned last week, he is in the planning stages of a cross-Canada walk to begin next spring.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“This has to be a living document, but we don’t want dead taxpayers.”
Ald. Cliff Barwick referring to the asset management plan submitted to council last Monday that calls for a 3.8% property tax increase each year over the next 20 years. Consultant Dan Wilson referred to the plan as a living document that will evolve over time.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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2 thoughts on “Police HQ debate set to flare up again

  1. It would only make sense to agree to build a new police facility if the price tag were only $5 million more than renovating the old building. I don’t believe the intention was to bring the old building up to “state of the art” condition. I believe the intent was to do SOME renovations, but to my understanding an EXPANSION wasn’t to be part of the plan at all. The idea was to NOT spend beyond our means and to give the police force a whole lot more room than they have now…which by the way could be done for a whole lot less than the $15 – $18 million. Remember when considering to build that new $20+ million facility (the price tag will rise, believe me), that you could, and probably will, end up with a $900,000+/year payment on a “deficient in every way state of the art facility”, such as our Timken Centre. Remember, “they don’t build things the way they used to!”

  2. Figures Barwick would say that, he is the navel gazer that put the City into this mess in the first place. The sooner he is gone, the better. His vision is so short sighted, it is amazing that he can reach down to pull up his pants.

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