Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay police board recommends building new, centralized police headquarters

Thunder Bay's police services board is recommending the city construct a new, centralized police headquarters, but such a move would still need approval by city council.

Balmoral Street facility in 'deplorable' state, vice-chair says, but new $56M building needs council OK

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board has passed a resolution recommending the construction of a new police headquarters. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Thunder Bay's police services board is recommending the city construct a new, centralized police headquarters.

The board on Tuesday passed a resolution calling for the new building in the northwestern Ontario city.

But a final decision has yet to be made, as the building, which would cost $56 million, would still need to be approved by city council as part of a future municipal budget proceeding.

The board's resolution also asked council to include about $6 million for land acquisition and the preparation of tender documents for consideration in the 2022 municipal budget.

The current police headquarters, which is on Balmoral Street, can no longer accommodate the Thunder Bay Police Service and would require renovations if it's to continue to be used.

"Kudos to the city, kudos to [police Chief Sylvie Hauth] and team, in terms of being able to maintain the outward face of that facility," said police board member Michael Power, who said he'd recently taken a tour of the Balmoral Street building.

"The minute you walk through the front door, you are in a deplorable state," he said during Tuesday's virtual board meeting. "Quite literally, this facility is crumbling around them."

Roof leaks, lack of space cited

Power said the building's roof is leaking, requiring the use of buckets to catch dripping water.

"The fact that the space is not designed to meet the needs of a 21st-century police facility is not lost on anyone from the moment you walk through the front door," he said. "Quite literally, we have individuals in our community who are in the worst pain, probably the most significant trauma that any of us could imagine in terms of being victims of crime, reporting at the front desk, while we are ushering individuals who are in detention in and out of the front doors of the facility."

There's a lack of space in the station, too, with officers using the station's garage to evaluate and quantify drugs that have been seized, Power told the board.

"We've run out of space for the vast majority of our most-important staff," he said. "The facility is a cinder block. It literally is a series of concrete blocks that do not facility our ability to bring in and support the most-important infrastructure."

Holding cells decades old

There are also issues with the station's holding cells, which were moved from the former police headquarters on Donald Street.

"The physical infrastructure of our holding cells are probably 70 years old," said Power said. "We're likely one of the only communities of our size in the country that actually relies on a key lock system, so imagine a fire in that facility in the absence of fire suppression systems, where we would be unable to not only assist our officers and our civilians … but also those that we are obligated to support and service in terms of those in detention."

Power noted the station also lacks an indoor firing range and training space.

The board heard Tuesday that if the project is approved quickly, construction could begin as early as next spring.