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The municipality has looked at this option. Purchasing the old Rona building and renovating it to the necessary standards would cost more than constructing a new building on the land already owned by North Cowichan at the corner of Drinkwater and Ford Roads. The site would have to be purchased and the RCMP would not share in this cost. The structure itself is also too large and would require extensive security upgrades and renovations.
Renovating the existing building would cost far more than constructing a new detachment. Retrofitting the cells alone would cost over $1 million. The current site is also too small to house the size of facility that the growing Cowichan region requires, and is located in an area prone to flooding.
We believe the majority support a new RCMP facility and understand the great need for one. An Alternative Approval Process (AAP) is the most cost-effective method to seek elector support to borrow funding. The AAP will cost approximately $5,000, whereas a referendum will cost approximately $60,000. Our goal is to ensure every elector in North Cowichan is aware of this process, and has the opportunity to respond, if they wish. Households in North Cowichan were mailed an information brochure in June, which included a copy of the Elector Response Form. This was the first time a mail-out was included with an AAP, going beyond the Province's minimum requirement of placing 2 notices in the newspaper. You can view the Council-approved Communications Plan here to learn about all the methods we will use to communicate with the public.
Our RCMP are currently operating out of a very small building, that does not meet their, or the community’s need. The proposed new building will allow the integration of many services and resources under one roof for increased operating efficiency, and more effective policing. The $48 million includes budget for: site preparations, connection fees, engineers, architects, construction management, construction, mechanical, electrical, furniture, fixtures and equipment, net zero premium, landscaping and contingencies.
The RCMP require a “suitable building” as part of the municipality's contract with them. If North Cowichan residents don’t take the initiative to replace the detachment, the RCMP will likely build it themselves at a higher cost and the municipality would be required to repay them.
The province is paying 60% of the loan, and Duncan and the CVRD’s “portions” are included in this 60%. Duncan and CVRD residents pay a policing tax to the province on their tax notices every year.
With an Alternative Approval Process, if 10% of eligible electors oppose the proposal to borrow the cost of the new facility, the municipality will have to seek approval through assent voting (a referendum). A referendum would have to take place within 80 days from July 14, 2020. A referendum would cost approximately $60,000, whereas the cost for the Alternative Approval Process is approximately $5,000.
The RCMP facility was originally scheduled to be replaced in 2012. There have been many delays over the years, and construction costs are increasing every year. The building has also increased in size to include South Island Traffic Services and Forensic Identification Services, in addition to the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment RCMP members and support staff. The building will be 50,000 square feet and will have some complex and expensive components (e.g. cells and high security standards). While North Cowichan will borrow the total amount, $48 million, the RCMP will be required to pay back 60% of the cost, meaning the remaining 40%, approximately $19.2 million, will be paid for by North Cowichan. Having more units in one building, rather than multiple buildings will save money. The Province will pay for the portion of the building related to the City of Duncan and the CVRD residents through the Provincial RCMP contract. The building will be built to high operational standards, but will not be luxurious.
Building a new RCMP facility will require about a 4% tax increase, phased in gradually between 2021 – 2024. The total cost to the average homeowner will be about $71 per year for the balance of the loan.
The new building will be constructed on the land North Cowichan purchased in 2014 specifically for a new detachment. The land is located on the corner of Ford and Drinkwater Roads, across from the Cowichan Commons Shopping Centre. The new building is expected to serve our community’s needs for 50 years.
The land was purchased in 2014 because it is central and convenient, especially with the new proposed hospital across the highway. The land was never in the ALR, but was rezoned, and went through the public hearing process, to ensure public input was heard.
The construction of this project will demonstrate that it is possible to construct energy-efficient buildings in an economically sustainable way and that there can in fact be cost savings associated with energy efficiency. Many of the materials that will be used in the proposed building are innovative, such as mass timber. The new proposed detachment will be built with specific energy consumption targets, in order to achieve net zero. Currently, we are carrying out a feasibility study, with the help of funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Architect's rendering of the new RCMP facility
The RCMP sets the standards for the building and the program. They require a certain amount of space for each activity in the building based on their standards. The design team fits those requirements into the smallest foot print possible, meaning the building is designed to be an adequate size and not overly large. The building will be 3 storeys with east/west access in order to get maximum natural lighting and energy efficiency. The reason the building is narrow and long is to make the most of the space in the lot. In addition, building will have solar panels on the roof and be net-zero-ready. Net zero means that you put back as much energy into the grid as you take.
By recreating a proven/tested design we are saving costs, creating efficiencies, and learning from another community’s lived experiences.
The size of the building is dictated by the RCMP and their need for each service that will operate out of the building. Since this is an integrated model that brings together many services, the new facility must be larger to meet these needs. The RCMP calculate the square footage required for each service and get the overall building down to the smallest possible foot print while still allowing for growth and future needs.
At this time, we don’t know what will happen to the current facility if the new building goes ahead. North Cowichan owns the land, and all options will be explored. It will be up to Council to determine the best and most appropriate use for the land and any potential sale revenues.
The current detachment does not meet the needs of our RCMP members, or the community. The current facility was built in 1980, and it has reached the end up its useful life, as the infrastructure is failing. The building was originally designed for a workforce of 30, and today the building houses just over 80 members and employees. In addition, due to the placement of the building, it is susceptible to annual flooding. This disrupts staff, and has a detrimental effect on the facility. Major security upgrades would be required, along with a renovation to bring the jail cells up to the provincial and federal standards. This alone would carry a substantial cost, more than constructing a new facility. Additional RCMP services will be brought under one roof in the new building, like South Island Traffic, Forensic Identification, and Municipal, provincial, and Indigenous police members. Currently, they are spread across many buildings and even communities. This makes them difficult to access and can have increased response times. A new integrated model will allow for more efficient policing in our communities.