For the third time, Wolfville town council is seeking public feedback on a proposal to use the RCMP space for community development department offices.
Council first explored the idea in 2017 but decided against it after hearing from the citizens. Council decided to revisit the issue during the budget process this past winter after it was identified that proposed upgrades to the public works and community development building would cost more than first anticipated, around $500,000.
It would cost $200,000 for code upgrades for the building alone. If staff is to remain there, more office space is needed and there are also accessibility renovations that are required, at an approximate cost of $300,000.
In light of this, council once again directed staff to look into using the RCMP space for town offices. $50,000 was budgeted this year to modify the RCMP space for this purpose and $200,000 was budgeted for renovations at the public works and community development building.
After hearing from the public at an open house, council decided to leave the budgeted items for both the RCMP and the public works and community development building in the capital budget. However, staff was directed to do more consultation before going ahead with any move or renovations.
At the most recent committee of the whole session, council voted four to three to once again move forward with the proposal. This is because of the hefty price tag to complete all necessary renovations to the public works and community development building.
The RCMP has indicated that there wouldn’t be any significant service level change if they had to move out. With the new detachment building in New Minas being completed, RCMP traffic services have already moved there. Two constables, a seniors’ safety co-ordinator and an administrative employee currently remain in Wolfville.
Michael and Sidonie Paige Hynes of Wolfville, both former RCMP members, are concerned with the proposal.
Michael Hynes said he doesn’t feel that you can weigh the importance of having an RCMP presence in town against a desire to use the RCMP space for town offices.
He has no doubt that the RCMP would respond to calls for assistance in Wolfville from the New Minas detachment but it’s a lack of presence in town and response times that he is “greatly concerned about.” The visual presence of officers and cruisers in town is “invaluable” to helping people feel that the community is safe.
“It just does not make any sense,” Hynes said. “You’re looking at an 11 km commute for members to come from the New Minas detachment, which is basically on the border of Kentville.”
Hynes said there have already been public meetings held on the issue and the majority of citizens were not in favour of the proposal. Most people probably think the matter has been addressed and a decision not to proceed has been made.
Now, it has come up again in such a hurry that he doesn’t know if there’s enough time before the meeting to adequately notify the people of Wolfville.
Sidonie Paige Hynes said the way the RCMP responds to calls is similar to triage in an emergency room. She is concerned that calls for assistance from Wolfville that are not immediate emergencies may not be dealt with in as timely a manner if there is no RCMP satellite office in town.
Wolfville will still be paying for same amount for RCMP service, but she doesn’t think it’s reasonable to expect the same level of service under the proposed scenario.
“The public is not even being given the opportunity to ponder this because, unless you’re on social media and signed up for the town’s newsletters, this information that this public meeting is going on for the third time, most people will miss it,” she said.
MAYOR NOT IN FAVOUR
Mayor Jeff Cantwell said the impact of moving the RCMP out of town would depend on what type of policing service people are looking for. Wolfville is a town with 4,500 permanent residents and a student body of nearly 4,000 people.
“I am a believer that we’re better served at this stage, being our own independent town, by having a town service represented in the Town of Wolfville,” Cantwell said.
For example, citizens would be able to pick up criminal record check forms at town hall but would have to take the completed forms to New Minas for processing. This would be an inconvenience for many, including hundreds of students who volunteer for community programs.
Cantwell said there are those who say that the RCMP aren’t using the Wolfville space anyway, but he begs to differ. He can see the door to the RCMP offices from his corner office and, while being interviewed on the phone for this article, he saw a person going in to talk to an officer who was on hand and there was a police cruiser parked outside.
Cantwell said there aren’t officers on hand in Wolfville all day every day but there aren’t at the new detachment in New Minas, either.
He said council would likely decide on the matter at the session following the Oct. 15 public meeting. Council didn’t have to go to the public, but it was stated less than a year ago that they were going to keep the police in town.
“If you’re going to have a major administrative change like that, then it’s only right that we take it back to those people we serve and let them know what is being considered,” Cantwell said.
IF YOU GO:
- The public meeting on the potential use of the RCMP space next to town hall is being held at the Wolfville Fire Hall.
- It’s taking place on Oct. 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with entrance from Locust Avenue.
- Town council is looking for feedback from the public on the potential use of the RCMP space for town purposes.
- This topic has been under consideration for a number of years and has recently resurfaced.
- For more information or to provide feedback in writing, email chief administrative officer Erin Beaudin at email@example.com.