The City of Moncton is pushing ahead with its plan to build a new station for the Codiac Regional RCMP, but some people are questioning the size, cost and timing of the project.
City council voted this week to approve calls for proposals from Bird Construction/Terra Trust, Ellis Don Corporation and the Ashford Group to design and build the new station, with an estimated price tag of between $35 million and $45 million.
Four councillors voted against the idea, including Ward 3 Coun. Bryan Butler, a former police officer who has worked in the existing 39-year-old RCMP building.
Butler said he is "in total agreement" with the need for a new station, but he contends the proposed size —64,400 square feet — is excessive.
He said he realizes the need to plan ahead, but the building would be large enough to house roughly 226 members. Right now, there are 147.
"I would find it hard to believe that we're going to [add] another 100-some police officers in the next 30 years. I just don't see that happening."
Besides, not every member would be in the building at the same time, said Butler. The numbers would peak during the daytime, when administrative staff are working but would drop at around 4 p.m. and again during the night shift, he said.
Coun. Charles Leger, however, argued the existing 40,000-square-foot building at 520 Main St., has exceeded its life expectancy and is "cramped," even without the 911 dispatch centre being housed there.
Members are dealing with a shortage of washrooms and storage space, and there are new building standards to consider, such as cell sizes and hallway widths, said Leger.
"As per the RCMP contract with the three municipalities [Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe], there is a requirement to offer space to the RCMP for their operations that meet their current standards and right now, that is not occurring," he said.
And 25-year projections have indicated a total complement of up to 280 people being in the building, although they may not all be police officers, given changes in policing, said Leger.
"So certainly it's time to do something," he said.
'Times are tight'
Butler said everyone is "on the same page" of wanting a new station for the officers, who put their lives on the line every day, noting tensions have remained high since the 2014 shooting rampage by Justin Bourque that killed three Mounties and wounded two others.
But council has to "make sure everyone is looked after," including taxpayers, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
"Times are tight," he said, with construction of the $104-million downtown centre underway, and council needs to be "gatekeepers for the tax dollar."
Besides, Butler, a 34-year veteran officer, believes officers would prefer to see a less expensive building, with investments in other areas.
"If you ask a member that's in a patrol car — does he want better equipment, does he want better vehicles, does he want more manpower, or does he want a new building, and I would say, if my office is going to be a Ford Victoria vehicle, I would like that to be the very top of the line, the best equipment in there, so I don't have to turn sideways and hurt my back when I'm typing, that there's more room if I need to have a partner, if I need more room for bigger weapons."
No word on location
There is still no word on where the new RCMP station will be located, but Bird Construction/Terra Trust — one of the three contenders to design and build it — also has a secret proposal that would give new life to the old Moncton High School.
The idea was presented to council during a private session about three months ago.
Both Butler and Leger declined to comment.
"That will come out in due course," Leger said.
The former high school, located in the city's downtown, has been vacant since January 2015 after being decommissioned because of health and safety concerns.
The building, with its Normandy Gothic Revival-style architecture, is almost 16,500 square metres and sits on a 2.8-hectare property.