Langford councillors, sitting as a committee of the whole, recommended staff include funds for the design phase of the new West Shore RCMP detachment building, as well as aim for a cop-to-population ratio of 1:750, in the city’s upcoming budget.
The spending still has to be voted on at a future council meeting during the city’s budget deliberations.
During a meeting on Monday (Feb. 27), the committee backed the RCMP’s pitch to demolish the older portion of the current detachment – which was built in the 1960s – and build a new $82-million building to combine with the other building on the detachment – built in 1999.
If council votes in favour of the plan at a later council meeting, Langford will pay $721,560, 60.13 per cent of the total $1.2 million budget for the design and planning stage. Colwood and View Royal have already voted in favour of paying their share.
“In 2018. I met with the mayors and chief administrative officers and I explained that we were dramatically and drastically running out of space,” said Insp. Todd Preston during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting. “We’ve now reached that point and unfortunately, we haven’t even started the process.”
During the meeting, councillors questioned the potential for satellite offices and had concerns about the large amount of parking required. Coun. Kimberly Guiry had concerns about it being close to Veteran’s Memorial Park and Station Avenue.
Preston said there would be inefficiencies having satellite offices – although the detachment’s traffic and community policing divisions will have to be moved off-site during demolition. For parking, Langford’s already purchased three neighbouring residential lots and is working on buying a fourth.
If construction ultimately goes ahead, Langford will borrow $49.6 million to pay for it, with interest rates currently at 4.67 per cent.
Coun. Mark Morley questioned whether there’d be cost savings to wait for better interest rates, but with construction costs rising rapidly, waiting would likely negate any savings, according to Bonita Craig, vice-president of Colliers, the consultants hired to work on the report.
Councillors also narrowly approved a motion to target a police officer-to-population ratio of 1:750. Preston said a ratio of 1:750 was the goal of Langford’s previous council but wasn’t quite reached (currently Langford has a ratio of 1:815), and that was reflected in crime rates in Langford.
“We want to make sure to be proactive so we don’t end up like downtown Victoria.”
He added the ratio, while not the best metric for assigning policing resources, helped negotiate some of the infighting that happened between municipalities covered by the West Shore RCMP.
Each officer, in 2022, cost the City of Langford 90 per cent of $213,988, around $193,000. Five new officers would require at least one support staff who on average costs $80,000 (the ratio of officer to support staff is 1 to 3). A city staff report estimated the total cost would be around a million dollars.
The motion to include the ratio of 1:750 in the city’s budget planning – which would mean hiring five new officers in 2023 – was narrowly passed 4 votes to 3, with Couns. Mary Wagner, Colby Harder and Guiry voting against it. A final decision will be made during council’s budget process.
City staff said the budget process would happen in late March into early April.
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