By Doug Hallett
The city’s chief financial officer has recommended that council agree to a $34-million renovation and expansion of the downtown police headquarters.
The equation for financing of upgraded Guelph Police headquarters has changed since city council wrestled with the surprise request from police at city budget time late last year, CFO Al Horsman says in a report made public Friday. The Guelph Police Service plans to relocate police personnel from the Clair Road emergency services centre to the upgraded police facility downtown when it’s built, Horsman’s report says.
The resulting vacant space at the Clair Road facility would be filled by emergency services personnel transferred from the fire department’s headquarters location on Wyndham Street downtown, the report says.
However, Horsman says this transfer of personnel doesn’t mean the downtown fire station would close.
“To date, there is no recommendation respecting specific reallocations of emergency services personnel, although it is understood that the Fire Hall on Wyndham will continue to operate as an Emergency Services HQ,” he said in an email Friday sent in response to a Tribune query.
Horsman is recommending that the city investigate possible cost savings from combining the emergency service communications of the police and fire departments in a central location. However, his report notes that KPMG has doubt on the viability of this option.
“KPMG identified the potential economies and service improvement that might result from developing a joint communication (police and fire dispatch) centre for the GPS and Emergency Services, but noted there are many barriers to implementation, as evidenced in other jurisdictions and in analysis completed by the province,” his report says.
The city’s new development charges bylaw means $14.8 million of the $34-million price tag for upgrading police headquarters could be financed through DCs, leaving $19.2 million to be paid through city debt, his report says. The report was to be considered at a meeting of council’s corporate administration, finance and enterprise committee Monday evening, after the Tribune’s deadline.
Last December, council approved the $34-million police project as part of the city’s 2014 capital budget, subject to city staff reporting back on a business case for the project. The business case was to include looking at other possible locations for police headquarters, as well as possible efficiencies related to police and fire department facilities.
The Guelph Police Services Board hired KPMG as consultants to work on the business case, and KPMG recommended renovating and expanding the current police facility downtown. It didn’t recommend the options of building a brand new facility downtown at Fountain Street or at a location away from the downtown.
KPMG indicated the project’s hefty price tag could grow even more. It told the police board on May 7 “that it felt the cost estimates of $34 million for the initiative were low, especially given the delay in start date that could represent increased escalation and other costs of up to an additional $5 million,” Horsman’s report says.
“However, upon deliberation the (police board) moved that the project still be recommended to the city as a project of $34 million in total,” his report says.
The police board had earlier proposed a $13.6-million upgrading of the current police headquarters, which was approved by city council as part of the city’s 2013 capital budget. But on reviewing the architectural drawings and project scope of the $13.6-million project, the Guelph Police Service and engineering staff from city hall “determined that the project inadequately addressed the actual requirements of a renovated headquarters,” Horsman’s report says.“Specifically, it did not redress all safety issues under various legislative acts, nor did it include appropriate space for current and future needs (e.g., cell blocks, prisoner transfer, vehicle requirements, etc).”
As a result, the police board submitted a revised capital budget estimate of $34 million – $20.4 million above the original project estimate – to the city at budget time last fall.
By Doug Hallett