Monday, June 11, 2012

The New Charleswood Police Station

The New Winnipeg Police Station in Charleswood

The city is moving to a four district police model just as soon as they can build a new police station. Old police stations at 210 Lyle Street (District 2) and 1350 Pembina Highway (District 6) will be closed and sold off. I am not sure why they are going to four districts. It is said that the old system reflected the 1971 pre-unicity municipal structure.

The city has already shed one district and is down to five presently. Already some of the divisions are freakishly huge.

That may well be. It should be noted that Calgary as 8 districts. Edmonton has 5. Saskatoon has 3. Regina recently increased from 2 to 3.

Also of interest is Saskatoon's soon to be completed headquarters at $122 million.

Winnipeg police headquarters has no guaranteed price tag and we may not hear a peep about what the final cost might be till after the next election.

In the last while, the city has undertaken the greatest police and fire infrastructure building program in decades. There is no doubt that some of the buildings date back quite some time. Still, the perfect synergy of demand for more police and fire service, the power of police and fire unions and low interest rates have meant city officials are jumping on the bandwagon to build new facilities or renovate other ones.

In many cases, the city has been funding these buildings with Private Public P3 partnerships that might run past the lifetimes of the present councillors.

The province is examining how these partnerships will work. The price of the contracts, the length of the contracts and the value of the contracts are probably all areas they will focus on. I have no idea if the province will veto some of these future P3 deals.

On June 12, the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development meets to discuss the $18 million dollar South District Police Station. It is not small money to say the least. However, the objective is to not have so much up front money burdening the taxpayer and to take away some of the risk in building infrastructure.

Is this the best use of money? I guess that is what the committee will decide. Most councillors won't be in office, some not even alive possibly when the contract ends some 30 or 50 years later. It will cost $44 million by the end...or more.

As mentioned, we have seen some huge spending projects in the last while. And we saw promises to increase police and fire employment along with the salary bumps for this involved.

In the 1980s, there was a huge bump in spending as well, mostly to build new road infrastructure. The result was some hard times later on with the resultant decay in older roads, parks and public infrastructure.

I hope we are not in such a period again. Interest rates are low. Perhaps this is the right time to borrow. However, interest rates also go up. Will the city get dinged in the next decade? Many cities and counties in the U.S. are cutting like crazy in terms of everything. The recession is a main reason but other factors like huge spending on infrastructure and staffing have come back to bite these local governments.

I see the need to replace old and crumbling infrastructure but the city continues to expand and spread out. P3 partnerships might help somewhat limit the risk but in the end, the taxpayer will pay and pay dearly if the city overextends itself.

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