New safety building explored in Hope

Task force created to investigate home for RCMP, fire and other emergency services

A new task force has been formed to examine the construction of a new safety building for the District of Hope.

The decision was made last Tuesday, during a committee of the whole meeting.

The proposed building would be designed to house the RCMP, ambulance service, fire department and search and rescue. The concept could also include housing the district hall in the upstairs portion.

“That would be quite a project. We’re not thinking small. We’re going to go big or go home,” said Hope Mayor Susan Johnston.

While only in the beginning stage – no architectural drawings or cost analysis has been created – Johnston said it is not a new concept.

“We’ve been sold on the idea for a considerable amount of time but it’s now that we are putting our feelers out there.”

She said the project was brought up during last month’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention. Johnston approached the Premier and the Attorney General to see “what the appetite would be” to receive funding. At this point there is no real indication of what kind of funding would be available.

“We’re not talking money at all. As we well know the government could change and that would require going back to the table and regrouping.”

Currently the Hope RCMP are housed in a building not owned by the district. Rent is a major part of the annual RCMP budget.

She said a new building could eventually “pay for itself.”

Johnston said she would also like to see the traffic services return to Hope.

In the early 2000s the Hope Highway Patrol was moved to Chilliwack to become the Fraser Valley Traffic Services.

“If we could get it back it would certainly help our share of the policing budget.”

She said Hope RCMP officers are now “first responders” at highway accidents, until traffic services can get on scene from Chilliwack. That costs the district time and money.

Hope RCMP Staff Sgt. Suki Manj said a new building would be welcome news to the force.

“The expectation is that they supply the building, so Hope has been paying (rent) for a provincial building,” he explained.

He said the cost has recently gone up and Hope is billed 100 per cent of that cost.

Manj said the current building has become out of date.

“There comes a point where you have to look at whether it’s worth repairing the building you’re in or getting into a new one. I think we’re at that point.”

Currently Hope has 13 municipally funded officers and four office staff. The cost is shared 70/30 by Hope and the province.

There is also five officers and one office staff funded solely by the province.

Manj said he has talked before with council on ways that efficiencies can be found in the policing budget.

“There are two areas where they can decide as a municipality on reductions,” he explained.

Those areas are the amount of overtime allowed and the number of officers on staff.

But Manj said fewer officers would force council to re-examine “what service level they expect.”

No decision has been made on next year’s budget, but Mayor Johnston has indicated that she is not in favour of reducing the number of police officers.

The 2011/2012 RCMP budget was $1.8 million with Hope paying $1.31 million towards it.

Manj said the municipality is looking at ways of saving money, or using it more efficiently.

“They’re looking to see if what we’re doing is making sense or do we need to streamline or do we need to reallocate funding,” said Manj.