May 14, 2014 7:58 pm

Cost of new Edmonton police facility now pegged at $99M

Watch above: The EPS made a big request from city council Wednesday to build a new facility. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON – In an ongoing effort to keep up with the demands of the ever-growing city, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) made a plea to city council Wednesday, for funding for its new facility in northwest Edmonton.

“Our current facilities are really, I’m going to say, 1970s facilities,” said Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht.

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“As the city grows as a service centre for our half of the province, the need for policing is going to continue to grow proportionate to that,” added Mayor Don Iveson.

The Northwest Police Campus is slated to be built on land just west of the Remand Centre. According to Knecht, there have been increased pressures in that part of the city for the past several years.

“We see calls for service going up significantly in that area. And our response times are dipping significantly,” Knecht explained.

“The last time I checked we’re down at 69 per cent for priority one calls within seven minutes. Our agreed upon response time is 80 per cent of the time we’ll be at priority one calls within seven minutes.”

Plans for the campus were outlined several years ago, but have since been updated, bringing the cost of the first phase of the facility to $99 million – about $17 million higher than originally expected.

“I’m not sure that at the end of the day we’re going to have to shell out an extra $17.5 million. I think there are some options for things that we can move in or move out to stay within the budget,” said Iveson.

Plans for the facility include a northwest division office and a new arrest processing unit, something Knecht says is a major priority as the current prisoner processing area is “almost always full.”

“On a Friday or Saturday night we say we go to a code red, which is we’re over capacity and we can’t be over capacity,” he said.

“We’re probably not, in fact I can tell you, we’re not taking some people to jail just because we don’t have enough room.”

Knect says officers cope with the capacity issues by releasing some low-risk offenders into the custody of family or friends, but he admits that’s “not a good way to do business.”

“Obviously violent offenders, people that we think are going to re-offend, those are the folks we’re going to lock up for the night because there are public safety issues attached to that,” Knecht added.

Police are also looking to build a new training facility, as the current facility is leased and scheduled for demolition. Iveson believes this is one of the areas where cost efficiencies could be found, by possibly partnering with the province.

“In this case I think because they’re looking for space to train RCMP and to train peace officers and others that there’s value in partnering on a larger training facility,” he said. “It makes sense to cluster some of these kinds of facilities… And so if we can do a few of those things on one campus, that creates some efficiency for us.”

Knecht says he realizes the pressure the city faces when it comes to funding and he too hopes efficiencies can be found.

“We want to be a good partner in that and some of these problems with our capacity issues, with space, they’ve probably been around for a while, but we’ve got to deal with them. They’re just going to compound and exacerbate over time.”

The EPS is currently in the process of building a temporary division office to alleviate some of the pressure.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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