Voters in North Cowichan will be given the option to have their say in the borrowing for a new $48-million RCMP detachment.
The municipality will hold an Alternative Approval Process instead of a referendum to determine if the residents of North Cowichan want to borrow the money for the facility, and the process will run over 30 days, beginning on June 12 and ending on July 14.
Although North Cowichan would borrow the full $48 million to construct the facility, which will be located on the municipality’s five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road, the RCMP and the province would be responsible for paying back 60 per cent of costs of the new detachment.
The remaining 40 per cent (approximately $19.2 million) would be paid for by North Cowichan.
During the 30-day response period, if 10 per cent, or 2,692, of all North Cowichan residents or property owners oppose the proposal to borrow the cost of the new facility, council must reconsider how to move forward with the construction of the new detachment and may decide to hold a full-fledged referendum on the project.
To oppose the APP during the response period, eligible voters must sign and submit an Elector Response Form to North Cowichan’s corporate officer.
Information brochures, which include an Elector Response Form, will be mailed out in the coming weeks and are currently available for download on North Cowichan’s website.
Voters are asked to visit www.northcowichan.ca/RCMP to download a response form, learn more about the proposed new RCMP facility, the AAP, and who qualifies as an eligible elector.
North Cowichan’s portion of the cost will require roughly a four per cent tax increase, phased in between 2021 and 2024, and will cost the average taxpayer $71 per year for the balance of the loan.
The new RCMP facility will be a hub detachment that will bring together the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment, Forensic Identification Services, South Island Traffic Services, First Nations Policing and some services of the Shawnigan Lake RCMP detachment under one roof.
The existing North Cowichan/Duncan detachment on Canada Avenue is well past the end of its life.
The building has had ongoing issues with rodents, leaking, flooding, and lack of adequate space.
As well as being in deteriorating condition, the current detachment building is unable to hold the number of officers, prisoners and support staff to meet the needs of a growing community.
Mayor Al Siebring said during the council meeting on June 3 that one of the major factors in council’s decision to hold an AAP instead of a referendum is the cost; a referendum would cost taxpayers between $50,000 and $100,000, while an AAP would cost just about $2,000.
He said he was opposed to AAPs when he was first elected to council in 2008 and saw them as similar to the negative option billing that was being done by some cable companies in the past in which people paid for channels unless they told the cable companies they didn’t want them.
But Siebring said he has reconsidered his opposition to AAPs after 12 years on council in which he saw them work successfully on a number of other projects.
“People understand that we need this facility, and we want to do our best to keep its costs in line,” he said.
“Many of the services that will be brought under one roof in the new facility are currently spread out across different communities and buildings which makes it more difficult to access them. Bringing municipal, provincial, and indigenous police members together under one roof, along with Forensic Identification Services and South Island Traffic Services will allow for more efficient policing in our community.”
A staff report written last year also stated that if voters don’t give assent to borrow the money for the project, the RCMP could then potentially construct the building on its own anyway and charge the cost back to North Cowichan.
“This could be at a higher cost to the taxpayers than if North Cowichan were to borrow the funds and build the building,” the report stated.