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GSPS looking at more options for standalone headquarters

Current facility is outdated and too small for today’s policing needs, says city’s top cop

Greater Sudbury Police Service will be conducting another comprehensive facilities needs and design analysis as it remains adamant in its need for a stand-alone headquarters.

A motion was passed at Wednesday’s police services board meeting, seeking proposals to conduct a comprehensive review of options regarding a new police facility. Funds for the study will come from the capital financing reserve fund. 

“We need to have a conversation, and we need to have direction to move forward, because it's evolved over time,” said Police Chief Paul Pedersen. “Policing as it looked in the’ 70s and even into the ‘80s is very, very different now.”

However, with any public discussion, it's difficult to have a conversation today about what impacts budgets and different councils down the road, but “we know these facilities weren't built for police functions, ever,” said Pedersen. 

“(190 Brady St.) was retrofitted so that we could fit here. (This facility) is not going to stand the test of time. This facility will not last.”

Pedersen said he is adamant a comprehensive needs assessment needs to be done.

“We aren't talking about wants, we're talking about needs,” he said. “These are needs that will ensure effective policing so that we can deliver service for our community.”

Several studies have already been conducted on this matter, most of which were looking at ways of moving the headquarters into existing buildings, but none of those studies led to an outcome, said GSPS CAO Sharon Baiden.

GSPS continues to retrofit a facility that just is not suitable, she said.

“We've exhausted all considerations in terms of renovations and going into another campus that would alleviate some of our space, because adding campuses really continues to contribute to the inefficiency of the model,” Baiden said. 

In the early 1990s, it was identified that policing was changing and Greater Sudbury Police’s existing facilities were not adequate.

In 2004, GSPS was already starting to feel some pressure with the limitations at its Brady Street headquarters as additional services were added, said CAO Sharon Baiden. 

“If we look in the rearview mirror, it was a multi-storey building in which we've had to sort of stack our operations,” Baiden said. “Just by virtue of that floor-by-floor separation, it has created some communication challenges.”

Communications challenges are the tip of the iceberg.

Overcrowding, lack of parking spaces, aging infrastructure such as elevators, lack of storage spaces, as well as issues with water damage, an aging mechanical and ventilation system, mould and asbestos do not contribute to an efficient police service, said Baiden.

“We've got significant overcrowding. As an example, our criminal investigators work in 35-square-foot cubicles, and it's just a whole sea of cubicles on that floor.”

Parking is also another major plank in GSPS’s campaign for a new standalone facility. 

When GSPS first moved there in 1998, it had 24 marked vehicles and 30 unmarked vehicles in the underground parking compound. Today, there are 36 marked cruisers and 59 unmarked vehicles.

“So we've really had to do a lot of movement of barriers and trying to maximize that parking,” said Baiden.

In total, Greater Sudbury Police has 186 vehicles in its fleet, which includes specialized vehicles like ATVs and boats.

A feasibility study conducted in 2004 looked at whether or not certain police service elements could be run out of the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre with fire and EMS services.

Then in 2014, when GSPS really started to feel the pressures of the demands now coming their way for either specialized services, or expanding some of the current programs, the board approved another comprehensive review of the facility, said Baiden.

The purpose of the review was to look at current space alternative options, and to revisit what other renovations could be made at existing headquarters.

Potential space alternatives were 200 Larch St., as well as the old city transit building. Both sites were ultimately deemed not suitable for the service’s needs.

“We looked at a whole litany of other possible sites, such as the Bell Building, 199 Larch Street (Tom Davies Square), and old facilities such as schools,” said Baiden.

After that, the police services board settled on renovating the current headquarters, adding an additional 23,000 square feet, from 69,000 square feet to 92,000 square feet, as well as increasing space by 28,000 square feet at the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre from 31,000 square feet to 59,000 square feet.

A KPMG review, however, confirmed GSPS’ existing facilities were contributing to the service’s inefficiencies.

In April 2019, the city’s emergency services steering committee passed a motion to initiate a comprehensive needs assessment for community safety development, which is fire and paramedic services, which were also experiencing facilities pressures. Initially, that motion was defeated, but it was tabled again in May and it was passed.

“So city staff were going to take the lead in preparing an RFP on a tri-services main-headquartered operation centre,” said Baiden. “There was a slight delay due to staff ability, but we were totally ready to go by March of 2020. That, unfortunately, had to be placed on hold because of the pandemic.”

Now, Greater Sudbury Police has been advised that city council is no longer interested in proceeding with a tri-services complex, she said.

Baiden said another needs assessment should be done because the cost of building materials has increased drastically over the past few years, mostly due to the pandemic.

Last year, GSPS conducted another study of every available space within its headquarters, said Baiden. 

“We were really starting to feel that we had to do something with our space, even if it was on a short term basis,” said Baiden.

The study recommended considerable renovations and infrastructure upgrades with a pricetag of $8.3 million, including $3 million in mechanical and electrical improvements.

“We know that building material costs have gone up substantially,” said Baiden. 

More recently, GSPS has been in discussion with the City of Greater Sudbury to explore space at Tom Davies Square, said Baiden.

“We have had discussions with city staff on when certain spaces might become available, but these are all just very short-term fixes,” said Baiden. “If we could move some of our office space, from the tiered model here onto some available space at Tom Davies Square, it would, at minimum, alleviate some of the pressures that we've got.”

A presentation will be made to city council at a later date.