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City looks to borrow up to $7.5 million for police building renos

Construction at Maloney Place is already underway.
0510 police borrow file
Parking lot upgrades at Maloney Place are already underway. If the borrowing bylaw is approved, the city will continue on with a renovation of the building. FILE/Photo

The City of St. Albert is looking to borrow up to $7.5 million to renovate and expand its police buildings, council heard Monday. 

The renovation and expansion of St. Albert’s RCMP detachment, Maloney Place (96 Bellerose Dr.), and renovations of the first floor of Beaudry Place (10-50 Bellerose Dr.), were approved by council as part of the 2022 budget process. The estimated budget for the project is $5 million, with the total amount proposed in the borrowing bylaw factoring in a 50-per-cent contingency.  

The expansion is needed to allow the police buildings to accommodate a decade of future growth, and will address limitations including building size, and a lack of parking and storage space, according to the project charter council approved last year. 

The limitations were identified in 2021, when the city hired a consultant to conduct a policing services building accommodations needs and feasibility study.  

After the advertising period for the bylaw concludes on Nov. 23, a 15-day petition period will begin. Should a petition opposing the bylaw be mounted, the organizers will have to collect signatures from at least 10 per cent of the population of St. Albert. These signatories must be from valid voters. 

If no petition arises, the city will proceed to a second and third reading to approve the bylaw. The second and third reading is scheduled for Dec. 19. 

Provincial police force 

Coun. Shelley Biermanski asked administration whether a switch to a provincial police force — as has been discussed by the provincial government — would render the expansion obsolete. 

Bill Fletcher, the city’s chief administrative officer, said there are “too many unknowns” around a potential switch to say for certain, but said it is “likely the space would still be required, given the growth of St. Albert.”

Biermanski asked whether there would be “any harm” in postponing the renovation until more is known. 

Fletcher said Maloney Place is already “bursting at the seams.”

“The space is required today, much less as we look at the potential growth of St. Albert through the next decade plus,” Fletcher said. “If we wait much longer, we will actually have folks in significantly substandard working conditions.” 

Costs growing 

When the project cost was initially estimated, that number factored in “contingency, office furnishings, and moving costs,” according to the project charter. 

However, an administrative backgrounder accompanying the council meeting noted costs have increased significantly due to supply chain issues, inflation, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For this reason, the contingency amount for the borrowing has been increased significantly — a typical borrowing bylaw would factor in 25-per-cent contingency. 

The backgrounder notes council must approve an increase in the project budget to spend more than $5 million of the borrowing bylaw amount. 

Parking lot expansion already underway

Parking lot upgrades at Maloney Place are already underway “to ensure the planned timelines are achieved for construction of the buildings,” the backgrounder reads. 

The anticipated total cost for this portion of the expansion, and subsequent building design phase, is $1.7 million. 

To finance this portion of the project, council passed a motion to take $1.4 million from the city’s municipal land and facilities reserve, an amount which would then be reimbursed from the borrowing bylaw. 

The remaining $300,000 or so will be funded from growth project amounts of $27,940 (approved for a feasibility study to identify existing options in 2019), and $266,521 (approved for concept design in 2020). 

If the borrowing bylaw fails, the reserve will be used to permanently fund the initial $1.7-million portion of work already underway, and the remainder of the project beyond parking-lot design and construction will not go forward. 

As of Dec. 31, 2021, the city had $73.4 million in debt on its books. 

Coun. Sheena Hughes said it’s important the public understands the impact of the borrowing is not a part of the 2023 projected tax increase, which, following a council-approved 50-per-cent increase to the city’s electric franchise fee, is currently projected at 6.8 per cent.

“A couple years later, that’s when we actually see the tax increases come into effect,” Hughes said. 

When putting forward the first reading of the borrowing bylaw, Coun. Ken MacKay said parts of the renovation have been “punted down the road on numerous occasions.”

“It’s only led to increased cramping,” MacKay said. 

The city currently estimates the renovations will be completed in 2023. 

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