Fort St. John residents have until June 8 to tell the city whether they want a referendum held to approve the borrowing of up to $22.7 million to finance construction of a new RCMP detachment.
Council has already given three readings to a bylaw authorizing the borrowing, which would cover the upfront costs of the RCMP's share of the estimated $51.4-million project, and be repaid in lease payments over 20 years once the building is operational.
The city is undertaking what’s called an alternative approval process, and council will move to adopt the bylaw unless 10% of municipal electors, or 1,557 residents, oppose the borrowing and request a vote by referendum.
Electors must live or own property in the city, be a Canadian citizen, and be 18 or older.
The bylaw would authorize the borrowing of up to $22,759,713, and financing for the rest of construction would come from capital cash reserves and Peace River Agreement funding from the province.
The city has also applied to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund for $10 million loan and corresponding grant of $1.5 million, or 15% amount of the loan, to fund new net-zero energy municipal buildings.
The borrowing will not result in a tax increase, the city says. If rejected by electors, the city could also use more of its reserves to offset the amount proposed to be borrowed.
Costs could spike
The city has said its $51,434,379 construction cost estimate could be up to 18% higher or lower, and either as high as $60.6 million or as low as $43.5 million due to "significant design and pricing allowances for items not yet determined."
The city says the building will use materials never before used in Fort St. John, and is being built to passive house energy design standards, which typically increase project construction costs by at least 10%.
The existing detachment is 39 years old, and at 122% capacity.
The new three-storey detachment is planned to be built at 10715 100 Street, next to the current building. It's designed to be a post-disaster, net-zero, mass timber buildin with a single-storey concrete cellblock and 159 parking stalls.
A ground breaking ceremony is planned for June, with the building envelope expected to completed for November, allowing for interior construction work to continue throughout the winter. Occupancy is expected for January 2022.
Unitech Construction Management is the construction manager for the project, and part of a design team that includes KMBR Architects of Vancouver.
The design team also includes Renu Engineering, D. Bauer Mechanical, Urban Systems, Smith and Anderson, Status Electrical, and Fast + Epp.
No contracts have been awarded for construction to date as the city undertakes the alternative approval process.
The Fort St. John RCMP covers an area that extends north to the Sikkani Chief Bridge, west to Williston Lake, east to the Alberta border, and just south of the Peace River.
The detachment has a complement of 55 officers, the majority of them — 38 — tasked with municipal policing. It also has 12 provincial officers, three First Nations officers, and one reserve and one auxiliary constable, as well as support staff.
To learn more about the approval process and download elector forms, click here.
The deadline to submit is June 8 at 4:30 p.m., and can be mailed to or dropped off at city hall, or submitted via fax or email.
Though city hall is closed to the public due to COVID-19, the city says copies of the bylaw and a report about the project are available from city hall during business hours.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.