Do something or else was the message Councillor Wade Niesh offered his fellow councillors regarding a short term fix for the city RCMP cell block.
“The building definitely needs to be replaced,” Niesh said at Monday’s council meeting. “Unfortunately, we are in the position of not being able to afford to do any of this but if we don’t do it, if we don’t so something, at least a short term fix, we’re gonna end up putting ourselves in a position where eventually they [Canada] can just build an RCMP station and send us the bill.”
Niesh was referencing the Municipal Police Unit Agreement, which the city has signed with the RCMP, which outlines the requirements of the accommodation a city over 5,000 is to provide for police, including:
1. Office space that is furnished, heated and lighted, together with electricity, water supply, and building and property maintenance services:
2. Jail facilities that are heated and lighted together with bedding and water supply; and
3. If determined by the Municipal Police Service to be required, headed and lighted garage space.
The act also says that accommodations provided will meet the security standards of the RCMP and prescribes what will happen when they do not.
1. The commanding officer will identify the concerns.
2. If the city is unable to resolve concerns within a reasonable period of time, the Commanding Officer will provide the city with a notice that sets out the reasons why they are not satisfied with the accommodation, including any existing or forecasted major problems and if applicable the details of what is required to meet security standards of the RCMP, advising that the city has two years to correct the problems from the date of notice.
3. If,within one year of the notice, the corrections have not been made, the commanding officer will give a second notice. The city will provide the commanding officer with a written report of the action that will be taken to correct the problems within one year (two years from the first notice.)
4. If within two years of the first notice, the problems have not been fixed to the satisfaction of the RCMP Commissioner, the commanding officer will inform the federal government, that the accommodation still fails to comply with RCMP security standards. Then Canada may make the necessary changes or lease other accommodation and the city is responsible for 100 per cent of the costs.
According to the report by Corrine Bomben, chief financial officer (CFO), the city has been sent letters in 2011, 2014 and again in 2015 notifying the city of the deficiencies at the station.
What are the deficiencies?
A story by The Northern View posted in Sept. 2011, outlined some of the cell block problems city RCMP were and no upgrades have been made since.
Safety of staff was an issue with older cell doors, having bars that are no longer acceptable, exposing guards to the potential of being grabbed or spit on. The police augmented the cell doors with fibreglass to protect staff.
Safety of inmates was also an issue because the older cell design is a potential suicide hazard and with only five cells and one holding cell (drunk tank,) there were space issues.
According to the 2011 story, then inspector Bill Kilberry expressed that what the RCMP wanted more than anything was an expanded secure area with 12 cells instead of six. The story also said that there was no room on the property for the expansion as the soil was not good enough to be built on.
At the time the cost for a new police station was reported to be approximately $12.3 million and require a tax increase of 7.15 per cent.
At Monday’s meeting, Corrine Bomben said that the cost of the minimal upgrades would be less than $1 million.