The Thunder Bay Police Services Board has approved a budget increase for the force of 1.5 per cent over last year.

The 2015 operating budget is set at $37,059,900.

Police Chief J.P. Levesque said the additional half-million dollars will help cover overtime and legal costs.

He said a number of major cases this year have put a strain on the budget, and his officers.

"It's been well-reported that we've had 10 homicides so far, which is a large part of it obviously. But also we've had a large number of other occurrences, which aren't necessarily deemed homicides but take an incredible amount of resources and again, as I mentioned to the board, they take their toll on our people as well."

Updates needed at police headquarters

Levesque said the budget also includes a plan to update the land line telephone system.

"The system needs to be replaced. It's aging. It's end of life, and we're going to have to replace it one way or another, either with VOIP (voice-over-internet-protocol) or cabling."

Levesque said the move to VOIP should pay for itself in about two years, and in the future may help Thunder Bay police provide communication services to other forces.

Meanwhile, members of the Thunder Bay Police Association are worried the timetable for upgrades to the Balmoral Street headquarters keeps getting pushed back.

Three-and-a-half million dollars in funding for renovations has been moved to the 2018 budget.

'Critical storage'

Association vice president Jim Glenna said the front entrance area is antiquated, and poses a safety concern for staff and the public.

Jim Glenna

Thunder Bay police Sgt. Jim Glena led the investigation into Reggie Bushie's disappearance in 2007. He testified at the inquest on Friday. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

But he said the property and evidence room is the bigger problem.

"It's at critical storage mass right now. There isn't room. That's key for evidence. It's key for court and we're really worried about that. "

Glenna said the storage room needs to be doubled or tripled in size. He said legislative changes, and technological advancements mean police forces have to retain evidence for decades.

Michael Smith is the General Manager of Community Services for the City of Thunder Bay. He said a committee, including members from administration and the police association, is studying the issue of upgrading the station. Smith said the committee hired a consultant to examine the building.

Michael Smith - General Manager Community Services

Michael Smith is the general manager of Community Services in Thunder Bay. (Cathy Alex )

He said, based on those findings, it's possible the work will need to be broken down into stages.

"The HVAC system and the roof replacement are critical so those are things that may not be able to wait to 2018 so we may have to facilitate a faster improvement to those particular assets."

Smith says the report on renovations to police headquarters should be ready in about six to eight weeks.

The police budget must now be approved by city council.