POLICE FACILITIES – ARE THE RENOVATIONS AFFORDABLE?

Recently there has been much discussion over the need for major renovations  to the existing police HQ or the construction of a new building. The need for renovations seem to  be based on past neglect and failure to  maintain a capital asset, the building.

The cost has escalated from an initial $13 million to $34 million. No such expenditure should go ahead until a detailed third party analysis of the cost savings to  be realized by the combining of the “backroom”  non-police support activities of the Guelph Police Services (GPS), Guelph Fire Department, and Guelph Ambulance services is carried out. The support activities to  be merged and eventually farmed out to  a private company should  include but are not limited to accounting,  payroll, IT (information technology), human resources, purchasing and material control, fleet maintenance, building and grounds maintenance.

Furthermore, the reported exiting from the recently built Clair Road facility by the GPS has to  be reversed as not only does the growing south end needs the coverage, but all GPS units do not have to  be co-located. Similarly, the cost saving to be realized by a centralized dispatch  system for all 3 branches must be investigated given that police, fire, and ambulance seem to  respond to  all emergency calls  irrespective of the nature. It is acknowledged that there is provincially mandated central region wide dispatch for EMS, that should not hobble consolidation consideration.

Given that crime rates are now at low levels not seen since the 1960’s, the manpower  requirements of the GPS has to  be re-assessed. There is no need for the  basis of projected growth of the GPS both in manpower and facility size.

The business case report presented by a representative of KPMG at a council meeting made repeated references to cost offsetting “synergies” expected from spending on the facility. This sounds like another way of saying that they don’t know what is going to  happen and bets on financial outcomes are being hedged. There were no “hard numbers” presented in the business  case relating to  cost savings  based on merging or outsourcing the previously mentioned services. This is a major fault and should have brought the consideration of  provision of the $34 Million to a grinding halt. However, given the apparent numeric and financial illiteracy of council and the administration, the funds were approved and city debt will increase.

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