Halifax’s chief administrative officer says the city needs to find a location for its long-delayed new police station by the end of the next fiscal year.
Back in 2018, former Halifax Regional Police chief Jean-Michel Blais presented a business case for a new headquarters to the Board of Police Commissioners.
Even then, he told commissioners that the existing building, constructed in 1975, was inadequate: it was outdated, inaccessible, and too small.
Under the chief’s plan at the time, the municipality would’ve started construction on the new station in November 2021 and HRP would’ve moved in by June 2025. Blais included milestones in his timeline, like land search and purchase complete by the end of January 2019.
Now, HRM doesn’t know where the building will go, and construction might start in 2025.
Rough estimates and timelines
During a meeting on Wednesday, municipal finance staff gave the board a look at the long-term capital budget plan for HRP.
Listed starting in 2025-2026 is the new headquarters, at $500,000. There’s another $1.5 million budgeted for 2026-2027, $8 million in 2027-2028, and then $90 million listed between 2028-2029 and 2032-2033.
Crystal Nowlan, director of asset management, said the current plan would see the new headquarters built by the end of 2028-2029.
“The numbers that are there are purely based on conception right now until there’s a determination on the service side of what kind of size and structure of a building would be needed,” Nowlan said.
“Those numbers could drastically change.”
Nowlan said the “rough estimate” of $100 million for the new headquarters could move up or down by as much as 50%.
Chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole said she’s seen documents from around 2017 that include square footage and design concepts, but they would need to be updated to new standards.
CAO wants to make sure building is safe for now
In the meantime, O’Toole said she wants to make sure the capital budget includes enough money to make sure the existing building is at least safe. O’Toole said she has asked the fire chief when the last time there was a fire inspection conducted on the building.
“I want to make sure, from an occupational and fire safety perspective, that we’re budgeting for whatever recap we need to do for that building to get us through to a new one,” O’Toole said.
But the CAO said HRM needs to get moving on finding a site for the new station.
“The municipality is running out of large chunks of land that we own that would be suitable for this kind of building. I think it’s important we get to a decision on a site for the new building in next year’s budget,” O’Toole said.
Coun. Becky Kent, chair of the board, suggested the municipality should convene a steering committee to finally get the project started.
“I worry when I hear the suggestion that because there’s no discussion, no idea of the size and the look and the elements of it, the land, there’s no design, that it will easily get pushed out,” Kent said.
“I’m not comfortable seeing two more years with zero funding.”
Kent said the new police station should be made a priority for the municipality.
The board didn’t pass any motion regarding the project.
Acting chief’s first meeting
Wednesday marked acting chief Don MacLean’s first meeting at the Board of Police Commissioners.
MacLean told the board he was “happy and humbled” to be in the role, and quoted a “veteran sergeant” who told him his appointment has sparked “optimism” among the rank and file.
“The chief is in the unique position in which he’s responsible to his members and he’s responsible to the organization, and they’re not necessarily always in convergence,” MacLean said. “But ultimately, we’re all responsible to the community, and that really is the most important part of what we do.”