After more than ten years of costly dithering, council finally made a decision on what route to take on a home for the city’s police service. However, don’t for one minute assume that will shut the tap on the steady stream of misinformation that has been leaking out from some quarters.
Figures from $20 million all the way up to $30 million have been bandied about by some aldermen and a blog in the city is stoking the fire with a cost analysis that is pure figment of the imagination. If you want to legitimize your point of view, then compare apples to apples.
With her Tweet just prior to Monday’s council meeting, Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands deftly demonstrated the fine art of fearmongering.
Her assertion a new police station “could cost average taxpayer $150.00 per year for 10 yr.” enraged Mayor Heather Jackson and Ald. Gord Campbell.
Such has been the posturing and playing fast and loose with numbers that has dominated debate over the past decade.
One person who hasn’t been heard from to any great degree is St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell, who we talked to on Tuesday. He stressed he is fully cognizant of the two key elements at play here — size of the facility and sticker price.
“I’ve been part of this process for over 10 years and I’ve worked with both consultants looking at space needs. And, I understand where we are with council and that is the two big issues — cost and size.”
And he stressed the force is not seeking a palatial retreat, what is needed is a functional building that will suffice for decades down the road.
“Certainly front of my mind is cost,” Pinnell reiterated. “I understand that is a real issue for everybody. I’ve committed that I will do my best to make sure that what we are looking for is what we need.
“What we need to do now is go through every functional unit and say what can we do to get by without getting into a situation in five or ten years down the road where we’re back at Square 1 again.
“I’m really cautious about making sure that whatever it is we do, we do it once and we do it right. You want to do things right at the front end.”
As to remaining in their present home and renovating to a like-new condition, Pinnell offered this insight.
“I had the same concerns about this building that others did. Whether or not we could really work in here while staged renovations were going on and whether or not you could expand the building outside of that 20-year window.
“There were a lot of things that were concerning. At the end of the day that wasn’t my decision, the decision was council’s. But dealing with a 40-plus-year-old building was a concern.
“I’ve lived in this building my entire career. I know there are contaminants in the ground, I know there is asbestos in the building and I know you can put a budget to whatever you like, but as soon as you start pulling open walls you know where the budget goes.
“At the end of the day, if you renovate this building and it ends up costing you the same amount as building new, you sure have a lot of egg on your face.”
WHAT’S HE GOT IN MIND?
Following up on a reported siting at city hall, we talked with Ald. Cliff Barwick on Thursday to get a sense of where his political future may lie.
He confirmed he did drop by the clerk’s office this week.
“I collected two nomination papers,” Barwick advised with the indication one is to be filed for the position of alderman and the other to join the mayoral race.
“I’m very concerned about the possibility of irresponsible decisions being made for the next four years where the main motivation is self-motivation rather than motivation which is going to help the city.
“I love being in a position where if I can help out I will help out,” Barwick continued. “I’ve worked so hard on a number of issues in this city but when you come in to the chamber and you have to deal with a kindergarten approach, it sort of dulls you.
“And you say, why don’t we have good reps at the municipal level? Because those people can see what’s happening and they say, ‘We’ve got better things to do.’ And the universal response I get is ‘Why would I subject myself to that.’ “
Now, if you were planning to give the council meeting a pass on Monday, you might want to drop in to the chamber or watch it live on T.V., based on this teaser from Barwick.
“There will be situation I will be announcing Monday night in council. It will have nothing to do with an election directly. I’m not going to say anymore except there is possible litigation here.”
If you watched the very opening minutes of last week’s meeting and the banter back and forth over what transpired in a previous in-camera meeting and a mysterious email sent to certain members of council, then you have an inkling of who and what is involved.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“There’s been figures thrown around since Day 1 like $30 million and $25 million. We need to go out and get a tender price.”
Ald. Dave Warden on misleading cost estimates bandied about over this term of council on what a new police station may cost ratepayers.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to email@example.com.Follow @ianscityscope