Construction of the new $48-million RCMP detachment in the Cowichan Valley is expected to begin early in the new year now that the project has been given a green light to proceed from voters in North Cowichan.
Just 4.6 per cent of eligible voters in North Cowichan submitted an Elector Response Form during the Alternative Approval Process, which ran from June 12 to July 14, opposing the municipality’s plan to borrow the money to build the new detachment.
When seeking elector assent though an AAP, at least 10 per cent of all eligible electors in the voting area must oppose the proposed project for North Cowichan’s council to have to reconsider how to move forward, including the possibility of holding a full fledged referendum.
At the council meeting on July 15, council voted unanimously to borrow the money after the municipality’s corporate officer Michelle Martineau explained the break down of the vote.
She said North Cowichan received 1,364 response forms by the deadline, with 130 rejected, out of the 26,916 eligible voters in the municipality during the APP.
Martineau said of those rejected, a number were sent in by people not living in the municipality, some had no signatures, others were duplicates and a number were received before the APP process officially began on June 12.
But it was pointed out by Mayor Al Siebring that, even if all the rejected response forms were accepted, the final vote would still not have come close to the 10 per cent threshold required for the project to be turned down.
Coun. Christopher Justice asked Siebring if, after his many years in local politics, he’s ever seen an APP process end up with a project failing to proceed.
“Would you say that the requirement for 10 per cent (of eligible voters) to reject a project is too onerous?” he asked.
Siebring pointed out that the 10 per cent requirement was set by the province, but said a number of years ago, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Electoral Area E (Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenor) held an APP to determine if its voters would agree to increase their financial contributions to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, and more than 10 per cent of the electorate voted against it, ending the initiative.
“There was also a land-use issue in Ladysmith that went to an APP, and people went door-to-door in the town and collected enough signatures against it that the project died,” Siebring said.
Coun. Rob Douglas asked finance director Mike Frame, who will lead the construction project on behalf of North Cowichan, if there will be checks and balances in place to monitor and keep costs down during construction.
Frame said that the new detachment will be built according to the RCMP’s specifications for it, but pointed out that North Cowichan has hired a construction and project manager who will work with the project’s design team to try and keep the costs contained.
Although North Cowichan will borrow the $48 million to construct the facility, which will be located on the municipality’s five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road, the RCMP and the province will be responsible for paying back 60 per cent of the costs of the new detachment.
After the vote to borrow the money, Siebring said the new RCMP facility will be an asset to the community, and he’s happy to see community support for the project.
“We will benefit from more efficient policing with more services operating out of a centralized location in the new integrated facility,” he said.
“I am looking forward to breaking ground on this project in the coming weeks and seeing our police members move into a building that better suits their needs.”