The time has come: The City of Prince Rupert must construct a new RCMP detachment in the community.
At the end of 2014, the City of Prince Rupert received the third and final letter from RCMP headquarters in the Lower Mainland stating Prince Rupert’s detachment is inadequate for policing operations.
An agreement between the provincial government and B.C. municipalities states that communities are responsible for providing and maintaining office spaces, heat, lighting and facilities for RCMP that meet the security standard of the force.
“The building is quite old and needs a lot of repairs. It’s a capacity issues as well with regards to the number of people we have in the building,” explained Prince Rupert RCMP Inspector Wayne Maughan.
The city received the first letter declaring the detachment didn’t meet standards in 2011. Because there is also a number of issues with Prince Rupert’s fire hall, the city began investigating the feasibility of constructing a joint-use facility for RCMP and firefighters in 2012, however the project stalled.
“Basically it stalled because there wasn’t enough money and [it was difficult to meet all of the conditions RCMP require for a new building],” said Mayor Lee Brain.
With the arrival of the final letter, the City of Prince Rupert is no longer able to put off replacing the more than 30-year-old detachment.
The city can either come up with a solution and construct the new RCMP facility on its terms or wait for RCMP to build it and send the city the bill, said Brain.
“We’re going to have to do something about it regardless; we don’t really have a choice. We’d rather be proactive and figure out a solution as soon as possible,” he said.
“Basically where we’re at is we’re going to re-look at the whole thing and come up with a new plan. We’re going to work with the RCMP. We hope to get something lined up and then we’ll see what the next steps are from there.”
Exactly how the city will pay for the new facility is unknown at this time. Last week, the city’s chief financial officer Corinne Bomben told council initial thoughts are for the city to obtain a loan for the project, given borrowing rates are low.
Mayor Brain said with the promise of LNG coming to the North Coast, the City of Prince Rupert is more likely to obtain a loan and if LNG projects go through they could assist in paying it off.
Bomben noted the advent of major projects could impact the scope of needs for the new RCMP detachment, suggesting the city could look to proponents to offset the financial implications of that.
In order to alleviate the financial impact to taxpayers, Bomben said staff is exploring a rental agreement with the RCMP to repay the capital component of a new building.
But before any decisions are made, the city will hear from the public.
“Staff intend to engage the community with respect to this notification and begin necessary planning,” said Bomben.
Prince Rupert RCMP are working with the city in order to continue operations in the current facility until the city is in a position to replace it.
“We do realize the financial situation of the city, so we’re trying to work with them as best we can,” Insp. Maughan said.
Bomben told council last week that this particular situation highlights the need for the city to have a policy regarding asset reserves. She noted requirements for future grants from government funding agencies require asset management to be planned for and adequately funded.
“Had a policy been in place our reserves would be large enough to mitigate the need for a loan and would have had all community members contribute to the fund while the existing RCMP building was and is in operation,” she said.
With this, city staff is recommending council consider enacting an annual mill rate increase of two per cent, money that would automatically be transferred to reserve. Currently this translates into approximately $200,000 from the tax classes that are not capped, with capped tax classes being asked to contribute.
The policy wouldn’t be implemented this year, with the city only introducing the concept in order to begin public engagement.