However, without even touring the one-level building that has served the province for four years, city council has flatly rejected what could be the least expensive option to house the St. Thomas Police Service well into the future.
In fact, in a letter to the building owner — H.D. Palmer & Associates of Windsor — St. Thomas CAO Wendell Graves stressed the intention of council is to pursue a new facility.
During a tour of the 38,000 sq. ft. building Tuesday, company spokesman Jon Palmer said his firm submitted a proposal to the city four years ago but withdrew it when approached by Ontario Realty Corp. (now Infrastructure Ontario) which wanted to lease the entire structure as a temporary courthouse during construction of the Elgin Consolidated Courthouse on Wellington St.
The province pumped $5.5 million into the Silver St. building to serve as a court facility, with the lease expiring on Dec. 31.
In April of this year, Palmer sent a new proposal to the CAO and all members of council offering the building as “an alternative solution for the new police building.”
“We were trying to arrange a tour just because of the potential we thought we had here,” advised Palmer. “We submitted our proposal to everyone on the list. Supposedly council reviewed it and there was talk they may do a walk-through and at least get them in the building to see what we had. That never happened.”
Palmer offered the building to the city for $8 million and this would include “all cost required to bring the building up to today’s standard as to post-disaster construction, replace the (exterior) siding, fill in the depressed loading dock on the south side and add any minor changes to the building.”
The city would be responsible for any interior renovations.
If the city wanted to hire its own architects, engineers and general contractor, the firm would be willing to sell the building for $6 million.
Earlier this month, the city’s police building committee received Class C estimates for constructing a new police building and renovating the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
Construction cost of a new facility would be $10.6 million, dropping to $8.8 million with the finished basement reduced to 7,000 sq. ft. from 23,000 sq. ft. in the first option.
By comparison, renovating the Colin McGregor Justice Building would come with a price tag of $10.2 million, if done in a phased-in manner. That would drop to $9.1 million if renovations were not done in stages.
Only a week after submitting his proposal, Palmer received a letter from Graves that stated, “Council has confirmed that its intentions at this time are to pursue the architectural process for a new facility and as such we will not be entertaining your proposal.”
Ald. Dave Warden, chairman of the police building committee, said the decision by council was unanimous.
“Council was adamant the building be close to downtown,” advised Warden. “And to do the renovations (at Silver St.) you would easily be pushing $10 million.”
However, as Palmer points out, in essence the temporary courthouse is only three years old.
“All the mechanical components, the electrical system and the HVAC system have been upgraded. There’s energy-efficient lighting. With the courthouse being here, security was all upgraded for what they would need so everything is in place. And there is so much office space.”
And Palmer noted the city had an opportunity to further lower the price tag.
“What we were offering in April was that any rent that is payable to us (until the lease expires on Dec. 31), that amount could be put toward the purchase, saving money for the taxpayers.
“Not only that, with the contract with Infrastructure Ontario, they are responsible to put the building back to original condition, so the cost of that could also be used to help bring the cost of the building down.”
St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell confirmed he is very familiar with building and “before the province leased it, it was on our list of buildings to look at as a possible retrofit.
“My understanding is council considered it but they weren’t interested in moving forward with it.”
Puzzled as to why members of council did not even undertake a tour of the entire building and the many upgrades undertaken by the province — including state-of-the-art security system throughout and jail cells that meet today’s standards — Palmer suggested, “I think if the public saw what was here . . . they haven’t seen all the office areas. It’s nicely finished.”Follow @ianscityscope