Sidney is getting some relief on its policing costs in one area, but faces additional expenses elsewhere.
Sidney’s draft budget calls for a $29,000 increase to the municipality’s contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Sidney shares a detachment with North Saanich, one of several cost-shared services with neighbouring municipalities.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer, said this change is smaller than the municipality’s annual average increase for that item.
“We tend to see savings in the RCMP contract each year, due to transfers, reassignments and other temporary absences,” he said. “A level of anticipated savings is built into the budget to account for this. That is why the increase is so modest this year.”
Concerning the RCMP at large, Sidney also faces rising personnel costs for computer services for total increase of $53,500, a total increase of 2.2 per cent compared to last year.
But if Sidney is getting a break on personnel, the municipality faces additional expenses when it comes to the building out of which the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP operates.
Sidney’s draft financial plan anticipates what it calls a “number of capital projects over the next five years” that concern the maintenance and security of the station. “The building is now 20 years old, and requires some attention,” it reads. “The [detachment] also underwent a security audit last year, leading to a long list of suggested improvements that are still being costed and prioritized.”
For example, the 2020 budget calls for $350,000 toward roof replacement, $50,000 for heating, $30,000 for window replacements, $20,000 for renovations to the cell block and interview room and $20,000 for garage doors. Looking ahead, capital projects related to the RCMP building in Sidney include $30,000 for internal door security and $15,000 for improved outdoor security (both tentatively scheduled for 2021), $50,000 for interior painting and $15,000 for kitchen upgrades (tentatively scheduled for 2022) and a total of $150,000 for miscellaneous security upgrades (tentatively starting in 2022 and running until 2024).
When asked about some of these items, like the entrance door, garage doors and cells and interview room renovations, Hicik pointed to a number of technical issues, as required by current RCMP standards. For example, renovations to cell block and interview room must include CCTV recording equipment in addition to other required physical improvements. He wouldn’t get into specifics “as these projects are taking place for the benefit of a secure facility.”
He added that these figures only represent estimates at this point, developed with assistance from Sidney’s public works staff based on the best available information. “If the work comes in under budget, the savings will accrue to [Sidney] and our RCMP funding partners, North Saanich and the [provincial government].”
Communities with populations between 5,000 and 15,000 cover 70 per cent of an officers’s cost if they contract policing through the RCMP. The provincial and federal government jointly cover the remaining 30 per cent. Notwithstanding this subsidy, the cost per officer has now reached $128,650, a figure that also includes vehicles and all other necessary equipment.
Looking ahead, Hicik said the RCMP model gives Sidney a better deal, despite the high costs.
“The long term outlook for policing costs is continuing increases, but we fully anticipate that the RCMP contract model will remain more cost effective than a municipal police force,” he said.
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