Winnipeg police union worries about cost overruns at HQ

The union representing police officers worries alleged fraud and cost overruns connected to the new police headquarters project has affected the police budget.

Winnipeg Police Association concerned officers bear brunt of problems at new building

The Winnipeg Police Association is worried its members are paying a hefty price for the expensive new police headquarters. (CBC)

The union representing police officers worries alleged fraud and cost overruns connected to the new police headquarters project has affected the police budget.

City council will debate the 2016 budget this week, including that of the police service. A 6.3 per cent increase in funding for police may not be enough to stop staff reductions at the police service. 

If the funding isn't found, the Winnipeg Police Service says it may be forced to lay off 40 of 68 cadets, cancel the 2016 recruitment class and lay off 20 of 37 members enrolled in the class.

Increased costs to the police service for occupying its new headquarters have contributed to the shortfall within its budget. Lower revenue from photo radar and a rise in salaries for officers are also adding to the budget pressure.

According to court documents reviewed by CBC News, the RCMP is investigating Caspian Construction for allegedly inflating invoices on the headquarters project. No charges have been laid against Caspian and none of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Controversy at HQ project affecting officer morale

Winnipeg Police Association vice-president George Van Mackelbergh said he's concerned officers will pay the price for massive cost overruns at the headquarters building.

"If those allegations have occurred, that money is going to have to be recouped and it certainly appears that Mayor Bowman and his budget are trying to recoup it already, so of course we are concerned. And does that affect morale? Absolutely it affects morale," he said.

The police headquarters project is more than $75 million over budget. 

Based on CBC's calculations, the total cost of the project sits at $212,267,000. Tack onto that $6.2 million for financing and debts service costs and that brings the total to $218,503,869, including interest.

The original cost of the project was estimated to be $135 million.

This year's budget for the police service has been mired in controversy. The police board voted to ask for an increase of $2.45 million from city council, but Mayor Brian Bowman and his executive policy committee have rejected that request. They say the police must operate within a 6.3 per cent increase that has already been offered for 2016.

Van Mackelbergh says it's important the RCMP be allowed to continue its investigation. He won't comment directly on the allegations.

Van Mackelbergh added his members have expressed concerns not all the deficiencies in the building have been uncovered, and some worry if there are more revelations, it will continue to affect budget allocations for policing.

"Does that keep going in the future? The more that they find the overruns, the more they find stuff wasn't done — is it more money that the Mayor wants to claw out of the budget? Because that affects morale, it affects policing and it puts the citizens and our members in harms way," Van Mackelbergh said.

Documents from the RCMP investigation into the project suggest the City of Winnipeg has lost at least $2.5 million to alleged inflated costs.