Legitimate option or a case of sour grapes?


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A possible third option as a home for the St. Thomas Police Service was rejected — sight unseen — by city council back in April and a Times-Journal article Wednesday indicated there was no appetite at city hall to pursue the Silver St. location, the temporary home leased by the province for the courts in St. Thomas.

Ald. Dave Warden, chairman of the police building committee, said the decision by council in April 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.”

The owner of the building — H.D. Palmer & Associates of Windsor — has offered it 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.”

If the city wanted to hire its own architects, engineers and general contractor to meet post-disaster requirements, the price would drop to $6 million.

In an interview Tuesday with Police Chief Darryl Pinnell, he indicated he is very familiar with the building and “before the province leased it, it was on our list of buildings to look at as a possible retrofit.
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“My understanding is council considered it but they weren’t interested in moving forward with it.

“In my view there are probably a couple of good reasons for that. It doesn’t meet their (council’s) initial criteria of being downtown.”

Is there a compelling reason why the facility has to be downtown? Committee chairman Warden couldn’t offer a reason that would be a deal-breaker.

Does the need to locate downtown trump financial considerations? Not many ratepayers are going to buy into that premise.

Pinnell also opined the structure of the Silver St. building raised concerns for him.

“Really what it is, is an industrial warehouse and because of that, meeting post-disaster specs would not be terribly easy.”

He cited the example of a similar style structure being considered in Durham, which the police service determined was cheaper to demolish than attempt to meet post-disaster requirements.

However, in their proposal to city council in April, H.D. Palmer & Associates was willing to absorb that risk in their $8 million proposal.

“The whole point is,” Pinnell continued, “if it was a suitable long-term location for anybody, that being the courts or otherwise, they would still be there.

“In my view, it’s a real estate agent that’s got something on their hands that is very purpose built that they’re having trouble getting rid of and of course they’re going to enter into the mix because we’re right in the middle of a fracas between new and renovating this place (the existing police station). I would say it’s sour grapes.”

So, what was the deal-breaker for city council: not a downtown location; cost of renovations; or the building owner could not deliver a post-disaster building for $8 million?

Did council really undertake due diligence on what might prove to be the least expensive option?

COST UPDATE

As the fine-tuning of Class C estimates continues, the police building committee will meet again next week to present the latest updates on cost of constructing a new station versus renovations to the Colin McGregor Justice Building.

If you attended Wednesday’s public information session at Memorial Arena, you know the numbers have been tweaked since first presented earlier this month.

The cost of phasing in renovations at the current police HQ has mushroomed to $13.2 million from $10.2 million, which includes a 30% contingency for unanticipated hurdles.

Likewise, the option of extending Third Ave. at the city-owned site adjacent to the Timken Centre would add $628,000 to the estimate of $10.6 million for construction of a new building.

Wednesday’s meeting begins at 11 a.m. on the second floor at city hall.

NEW CANDIDATE CHALLENGE

This corner has arranged for a tour of the temporary court facility on Silver St. to allow new candidates in the
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Oct. 27 municipal vote to determine for themselves the viability of converting this building into a headquarters for the St. Thomas Police Service.

And, can the owners live up to their claim to deliver a building that meets post-disaster requirements?

The tour will take place at a yet-to-be determined time next week.

If you’re a candidate and wish to join the tour, contact City Scope at the email address below.

IN THE RUNNING

Mark Cosens filed his nomination papers Thursday at city hall to become the second alderman seeking re-election this October. Tom Johnston declared his intent earlier this month.
Ald. Mark CosensFile photo
Rounding out the aldermanic race are John Allen, Brett Bear, Ken Boe, Gary Clarke, Jaqueline De Leebeeck, Rose Gibson, Todd Rowley, Joan Rymal, Linda Stevenson, Mark Tinlin and Steve Wookey.

On the mayoral side, it’s Heather Jackson vs. Cliff Barwick in a replay of the 2010 race. With Cosens opting to take a pass on challenging those two for the right to lead council, Ald. Jeff Kohler may very well adopt the same strategy, likely ensuring both incumbents remain in office for another four years.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It just seems to me that’s a pretty fast and loose claim to be able to make a warehouse into a post-disaster building.”

St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell on an offer to sell the building on Silver St. that served as a temporary courthouse to the city for $8 million, which would include upgrades to meet post-disaster requirements.

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

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