The sergeant in charge of operations with the Placentia-Whitbourne District RCMP is welcoming news that the detachment in Whitbourne is one of five shortlisted for renovation or replacement over the next five years.
Sgt. Tom Murray said the three-level wooden building in Whitbourne has served the force well over the years, but is no longer up to the standard needed to accommodate a modern police detachment.
"It's useful life is to the bitter end," said Murray.
The provincial and federal governments signed an agreement last month that guarantees the RCMP will provide policing services in this province for at least the next two decades.
The new agreement includes strategic investments for updating and replacing detachments in the province.
In a news release issued late last month, the province announced it had identified five detachments which need to be renovated or replaced. These detachments are Whitbourne, St. Anthony, Twillingate, Rocky Harbour and Clarenville.
The provincial government has announced an investment of $3.9 million in each of the next five years to a new infrastructure program, which represents the province's 70 per cent share.
Among the oldest
The Whitbourne detachment was constructed in 1961, and is among the oldest RCMP buildings in the province, said Murray, a St. John's native and 26-year veteran of the RCMP.
"This detachment was well-built and we've maintained it well over the years," Murray stated. "But I believe it's just too old for renovation."
Murray said there are several shortcomings, including the fact there is no lock-up in the building, forcing officers to transport those in custody to Placentia. He said the interview and breathalyzer/fingerprint rooms are "sub-par," and noted there are other "space limitations." He said the detached, unheated garage has also posed some challenges, especially as it relates to the storage of vehicles being held in connection to an investigation.
Murray suggested the detachment's location is also a concern, since it takes about five minutes for a patrol car to reach the Trans-Canada Highway. Officers respond to an average of 900 calls for service on the TCH annually, and he wonders if it would make better sense to locate the detachment closer to the highway.
He said Whitbourne is "very quiet," and acknowledged that a location closer to the highway has been considered.
Many municipal leaders would likely argue against any suggestion of removing a police detachment from their town, but that's not the case in Whitbourne.
Mayor Lloyd Gosse agrees that a location closer to the TCH would be a preferred situation.
"I think it would be better for the area," said Gosse. "We talked about this the other night (at council), and we're all on the same mind. They have to serve the area. Not just Whitbourne. We're big enough to say that's the way it probably should be."
Ironically, the town designed the RCMP detachment a municipal heritage structure late last year.
Gosse said he would not want to see the building bulldozed, and believes there could be another use for it.
More input for province
Meanwhile, Justice Minister and Attorney General Felix Collins (Placentia-St. Mary's) said the new agreement will mean more input into major capital decisions.
"The five-year infrastructure plan will see significant renovations or replacement of detachments and living quarters throughout the province. Some of these buildings are up to 60 years old and no longer meet the necessary standards required to carry out present-day policing activities," Collins said.
"Policing standards have changed significantly over the years and these detachment replacements and renovations will go a long way in addressing our infrastructure requirements for today and into the future," said Superintendent Andrew Boland, acting commanding officer of RCMP "B" Division.
Since 2004, policing budgets have increased by over $52 million and there are an additional 145 uniformed police officers on the street, according to the provincial government.
The RCMP operates in approximately 50 locations, with over 440 uniformed members in addition to numerous civilian members and public service employees.
The RNC operates in the Northeast Avalon, Corner Brook area and Labrador West.