Now surrounded by blue construction fencing, the headquarters for the Guelph Police Service looks very different today than it will three years from now. After months, and years, of debate and planning, the $34 million renovation official began with a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony this morning in front of the building.
"This is a very exciting day for us and our community," said Chief of Police Jeff DeRuyter to kick off the ceremony. "Like other professions, organizations and services, we have to plan for the future, but also respond to a changing environment. The building behind me, and previous versions of the building, whether here or elsewhere, have served our community for over 175 years, but we need to ensure that we have a police facility that accounts for changes in policing today, and for years into the future."
DeRuyter pointed out that this was a long time in the making, "two chiefs ago," he observed.
"Guelph is always known as one of the safest cities in Canada, and that goes, obviously, with the dedication of the service of the actual people that do the day-in and day-out work, but in making sure we maintain that safe city, we also have to have the equipment and the facilities to help in keeping that going," said Mayor Cam Guthrie.
"I have seen the dedication and the details that have gone into this at the board level, but also in conjunction with the city staff as well, and I'm also very excited to see all the oversight, and the accountability, and the reporting for such a complex capital project such as this that is going to be embedded in this whole process," Guthrie added addressing directly the criticism of the renovations. "That is something I know that the community is going to be looking forward to as well."
Chief Administrative Office Ann Pappert recognizes that there's concern in the community about such a costly capital project and the desire to make sure that it all goes according to plan and budget, and she wants to assure everyone that the City is also invested in keeping the 154 week project on time, and on budget.
"What you're seeing on this project now is a restructuring of who's responsible for the project, clear leads, and clear timelines," she explained to me after the ceremony. "We have a very detailed project charter on this now that's tied and integrated into the reporting cycles, tied to a system of regular communications up through the governance of the project meaning through the project team, to the steering committee, back to GPS and now council will get quarterly reports."
The renovation of Guelph Police headquarters, and the renovation of the Victoria Road Recreation Centre, represent the first capital projects of their size to follow through on the 18 recommendations that came out of the Deloitte audit following the Urbacon snafu during the construction of City Hall.
"As the bigger projects come forward, they have a clean template now that talks about risk areas, that talks about how financially we are against the budget, where we are in the project milestones or timelines, and advanced notice of any shift in the project."
Highlights of the new building include enhanced security features; the ability to withstand a major disaster; a new multifunctional room for group use; private interview rooms; enhanced efficiency of space; new and redesigned amenities, environmentally friendly and cost effective heating, cooling and lighting; and update compliance on health, safety, legal rights and monitoring.
More specifically, the new and improved police HQ will see a new main entrance that opens onto Wyndham St. and will have all community services situation in close proximity together there. In the west wing of the building, it will now be four storeys tall (with options for fifth and sixth storeys in the future), and it will have indoor parking on two lower levels for the department's vehicle fleet. The total cost is $34.1 million.
Renovations on police headquarters will be completed sometime in mid-2019.
Check out the raw audio from the groundbreaking below: