The cells within the 40-year-old Prince Rupert RCMP building are expected to be renovated this year to meet national standards. (Mitchell Haindfield photo)

The cells within the 40-year-old Prince Rupert RCMP building are expected to be renovated this year to meet national standards. (Mitchell Haindfield photo)

City struggles to meet RCMP demands to improve facilities

Prince Rupert’s cells being retrofitted while process continues for new $30M RCMP building

Police in Prince Rupert are operating out of a 40-year-old building, where prisoners are kept in jail cells that don’t meet national standards, and where files are kept off site due to a lack of storage space.

In documents obtained by the Northern View under the Access to Information Act, the “detachment is suffering from a critical shortage of work space and, as such, lacks the functional space or room to accommodate current operational needs.”

READ MORE: City asks for public’s input on budget

To function properly a new RCMP detachment is needed, and the estimated cost is $30 million. But a new facility will take years to build. In the City of Prince Rupert’s Proposed Five-Year Financial Plan — which the city voted to adopt on Monday, April 23 — it estimates the new RCMP facility will be built and in service by 2023.

The Band-Aid solution in the interim is to retrofit the jail to meet national standards, costing the city $524,000.

Notice letters

The letters began in 2011. In July of that year, the Commanding Officer for the B.C. RCMP division wrote a formal letter to the City of Prince Rupert requesting the municipality replace the outdated building.

After preliminary discussions, but no action, the RCMP sent a formal notice in July 2014, addressed to city manager, Robert Long. This time, the letter was more pressing — correct the deficiencies within two years.

In 2014, the letter listed some of the issues: there were two RCMP staff working out of another location due to lack of space, concluded operational files were kept off site and for police to access them they had to travel to another building. “To do so is neither effective nor efficient,” the letter stated.

Another issue is the parking for employees and police vehicles is not secure, and there isn’t enough space to install security fencing.

One of the biggest issues is the jail cells. The cells don’t meet RCMP standards that were established “to reduce or eliminate potential hanging points, inhibit weapons fabrication and improve monitoring capabilities.”

The city is responsible for the detachment through the Municipal Police Unit Agreement. If the city fails to cooperate, the RCMP is within its right to build its own station and send the city the bill.

Cell block retrofit

Last year, progress was made between the city and RCMP.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Lee Brain, on May 11, 2017, the RCMP thanked the city for taking steps to acquire land for the new detachment and agreeing to renovate the cell block as an “interim measure” until the new building is constructed.

READ MORE: If we don’t build it, they will Neish says

“The renovation of the other cell block is anticipated to be complete by April 2018,” the letter from the Commanding Officer stated.

Now, a year later, while renovation costs have been approved by the city, the developments are not complete.

“There have been some unanticipated operational delays with completing the cell block improvements, which are associated with construction within an RCMP detachment. Programming around functionality is a sensitive issue because it is a cell block. There has been significant liaising between the architect and RCMP property division to create the construction specifications required to complete the mandated upgrades,” said Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the city, in an email.

Funding a new RCMP station

Where the current station is located doesn’t allow for expansion, and it needs to be relocated. There is no clear-cut option for how the city is going to pay for the construction of a $30-million RCMP building.

Prince Rupert isn’t the only municipality faced with footing the bill of a new RCMP facility. Fort St. John’s RCMP building is 35 years old, and can no longer accommodate growth for the city with a population of more than 20,000 people. Renovations were too expensive, leading council to go ahead with a $43-million rebuild.

In Feb. 2018, the city of Fort St. John started the bidding process for a design for the new detachment. Funding for the project will go through annual lease payments, grants, capital reserves, as well as using funding from the Peace River Agreement, a $50-million oil and gas benefits fund available to northeastern municipalities.

How the City of Prince Rupert plans to pay for the RCMP building is less certain — as its based on the District of Port Edward renegotiating the Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement established in 1981.

“Council and staff hope to divert the Ridley Island Tax Sharing agreement funds paid to the District of Port Edward entirely toward the cost of the new RCMP detachment. This would translate into no additional cost to city taxpayers, who currently bear the primary burden of regional service provision,” the document states.

READ MORE: Ridley Island taxation sharing temporarily solved

The tax sharing agreement has cost the City of Prince Rupert $675,000 a year since 2013, as stated in the April 2018 report from the Small Business Advisory Committee. The city estimates the annual debt cost of the new RCMP building will be $700,000 a year.

Port Edward has consistently refused to renegotiate the tax sharing agreement, yet the district relies on RCMP services to keep the peace in its community. The burden, may then, fall on Prince Rupert taxpayers, once the facility is finally built.

 

shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com 

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

City of Prince RupertPrince Rupert RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Bus North was implemented under the NDP provincial government in 2018 when Greyhound cancelled services across northern BC. The transportation funding expires at the end of March 2021. (Photo: B.C. Transit)
BC Liberals call for immediate govt. renewal of BC Bus North funding

BC Liberals spent years ignoring need for better transportation in the North - Jennifer Rice, MLA

Prince Rupert Tourism is benefitting from funding for new welcome and wayfinding signage from the COVID-19 Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. McClymont Park on the gateway into Prince Rupert is one of the first things tourists see entering the city by road. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
$695,000 Community Economic Recovery funds to benefit local organizations

Prince Rupert Tourism and Gitga’at Development Corporation to receive COVID-19 recovery funds

Wainwright Marine Services Ltd.’s “Ingenika” tugboat went missing in the Garner Canal area south and east of Kitimat on Feb. 11, resulting in two deaths and the rescue of a third man. (Wainwright Marine Photo)
Tug union demands Transport Canada protect workers along B.C. coast and rivers

ILWU makes safety demands following the deaths of two men and the rescue of a third

High winds blow wet snow in Prince Rupert on Feb. 24. The region is expecting two to four cm of snow and winds up to 100 km per hour. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
High wind warnings for North Coast, up to 4 cm of snow expected

Wet snow makes driving conditions in Prince Rupert slippery

Pink shirt day was celebrated at Pineridge Elementary School by staff and students in a stand against bullying. Mr. Craig, a work-experience student from Charle Hays Secondary School is seen with students in front of the hearts for kindness board on Feb. 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pineridge students stand against bullying

Prince Rupert students in the pink with kindness

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Most Read