THUNDER BAY - After being deferred for more than two months to allow for further consultation, the Thunder Bay Police Services Board has voted to move forward on a proposal to replace the existing police headquarters on Balmoral Street with a new centralized facility at a target cost of $56 million.
During the board's monthly meeting on Tuesday, a motion was passed to recommend a new centralized headquarters and that $6.1 million gross and $5.6 million net of HST rebates for land acquisition and the development of tender documents be included in the city’s 2022 capital budget for consideration.
The motion was first presented last December and again in January but was deferred to April when the newest Police Services Board member Michael Power requested the board take more time to consult with city councillors and community stakeholders before moving forward.
On Tuesday, Power presented to the board findings of consultations with city council members, as well as other community organizations including the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay Mental Health Association, the Indigenous Friendship Centre, the Ontario Native Woman’s Association, and invitations have been extended to Fort William First Nation and Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
“We had the conversation in the context of what is policing today and what it should look like over the next 30 years,” Power said.
“One of the key messages that came back is the fact that we have police in our corporate name does not mean we own this space. We are part of a continuum that contributes to health and safety in our community.”
The Thunder Bay Police Service Balmoral Street headquarters was constructed more than 40 years ago and according to Power, it is no longer able to meet the needs of policing in the community.
“This facility is 40 years old. The façade is in great shape. The minute you walk through the front door, you are in a deplorable state. Quite literally this facility is crumbling around them,” he said.
“If only the community knew the conditions our officers, our civilians, those we serve, those in detention, the reality of the facility and the deficiencies of the facility. The risks and the liabilities in this facility to our officers, civilian staff, and those we serve are real.”
Some of the issues with the current headquarters outlined in the presentation include a lack of space to support facilities like an indoor firing range and training area, an outdated lock and key system for detention cells, and infrastructure that does not allow for easily updating new information technologies.
“We don’t have the basics to meet the needs of a 20th century policing facility let alone a 21stcentury policing facility,” Power said.
Power added a new centralized facility that looks ahead to the future of policing could strengthen partnerships by bringing together other police services, mental health and crisis organizations, and Indigenous groups together under one campus.
“We can be the envy of community policing,” he said.
Consultants first recommended last March it would be more cost-effective to replace the police headquarters rather than retrofitting the existing structure.
The total target project cost is set at $55.9 million, with HST rebates lowering that to $50.4 million.
However, on Tuesday, the Police Services Board amended the original motion presented in January that included the costs of construction to be included in the 2024 capital budget consideration.
Consultants said the optimal start date for construction is next April or May, with site preparation taking place as early as the fall.
If construction is not able to take place until 2023 or 2024, costs would increase based on inflation and at five per cent the $56 million target cost could increase to $58 million.
The board did not have to identify the project cost as part of the motion but rather only the $6.1 million for land acquisition and design. The motion was amended to drop the $56 million for 2024 budget considerations.
The $6.1 million for the 2022 capital budget consideration will be presented to city council before the end of June when all budgetary submissions are finalized.