Redesign may be needed for St. Catharines cop shop

By Maryanne Firth, St. Catharines Standard

A redesign may be in store for the new St. Catharines police detachment to prevent $5.65 million in projected cost overruns.

That was the direction several regional councillors said they’d like to see the project take in order to rein in costs.

The to-be-built detachment and its price tag were a hot topic at Wednesday’s corporate services committee meeting, where an update on its status was provided by staff.

Some councillors previously raised concerns over the new police facilities, including the combined Niagara Regional Police headquarters and Niagara Falls detachment, as well as the St. Catharines detachment, climbing past an $83-million funding cap previously put in place.

The projected cost overrun was brought forward to the police services board by regional staff last week.

While a funding cap was established for the related builds, no budget was set specifically for the St. Catharines detachment, said Mo Lewis, Niagara Region’s acting chief administrative officer.

However, a stipulation was put in place that once the new headquarters was completed, no less than $10 million of that $83 million should remain for the St. Catharines facility, he said.

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn disagreed no budget for the detachment existed, calling the forecasted increase “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

“This is what happens when you don’t have a budget, or you don’t think there’s a budget. You put everything in,” he said of the design. “It’s called kitchen sink building. You put absolutely everything in.”

The St. Catharines building, to also house a contentious 911 backup centre, is now projected to cost $23.8 million, despite about $18.2 million in available funding.

The police services board has allocated $1 million toward the 911 backup centre, now estimated to cost $2.6 million.

The board will have to determine if it will contribute additional funds to that component of the build, Lewis said.

After a decision is made at the board level, council can determine how to proceed, he added.

Lewis said staff are trying to give council early warning that “financial pressures” exist with the detachment’s construction.

The estimated cost of the project began to climb as the detailed design came together.

“I think this needs to be sent back, redesigned, right-sized,” Augustyn said of the detachment, to be built in the area of Welland Avenue and Niagara Street. “Maybe that 911 backup centre can go somewhere else and we can use that $1 million wisely in another facility. There are bound to be other options.”

He feared the St. Catharines building is poised to “eat up” the savings seen in the headquarters construction.

The headquarters’ tender came in $6 million under budget, money that is available to help fund the St. Catharines build, Niagara Region project manager Mislav Koren said.

There is also $500,000 remaining from the headquarters’ $4.5-million contingency that can also be used for the new construction, he said.

St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski felt the reports being received on the detachment were premature, as projected costs may differ significantly from the tender bids that are ultimately received.

“Let’s go to tender. Let’s get the actual dollar value and then let’s have the actual dust-up on this, which it sounds like there’s going to be,” he said.

The construction tender is expected to be issued in early 2017.

Niagara Falls Coun. Selina Volpatti came looking for answers regarding the property selected for the Garden City station.

Though appraised at $960,000, the land ended up costing more than $3.2 million — $1.35 million for its purchase and $1.86 million for its remediation.

“I want to know how we got here,” she asked staff.

“The decision to purchase this property was specifically directed by regional council,” Lewis said in response. Council at that time, he said, was made aware of the appraised value, the vendor’s purchase price and that remediation would be required at the property.

“Staff received clear direction from council to act, purchase this property and move forward with the cleanup. That’s how we got here.”

Thorold Coun. Henry D’Angela, former police board chairman, said council “wrote a blank cheque for the cleanup” on the land in 2014.

“It was not the ideal property,” he said, adding he believes “that’s where the bulk of this overage is now stemming from.”

A detailed report outlining the history of the project will be brought to committee Nov. 9 for discussion.

A second report, including staff recommendations on financial options moving forward and budget implications, will come to council Nov. 17.

Volpatti hoped those reports would also address rumours she’s heard that police are “very dissatisfied” with the amount of parking proposed for the St. Catharines site.

“Do we have enough parking or not? Are we going to have to buy more property so we can have more parking? What’s the reality of the situation here?” she questioned.

Lewis said it’s his understanding that the police force is satisfied with the 155 parking spaces earmarked for the property.

“As it stands now, I’m not aware of any requests for additional parking.”

If parking was later deemed insufficient, additional land would have to be purchased or rented, Lewis said.

If it’s believed parking may come up short of the need, the facility should be redesigned prior to construction to address that issue, Augustyn said.

Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »