By John Devine
Special to Ontario Construction News
Once the site of a fitness centre, 79 Bell Farm Rd. in Barrie was purchased in 2009 by the city for use by the Barrie Police Service. It was meant to be a temporary fix until a new police headquarters could be built sometime down the road.
The end of the road is nearing, with the $103-million Barrie Simcoe Emergency Services Campus on Fairview Road nearing completion. The service still has plans for the Bell Farm Road property, however, and wants $500,000, as part of its $55.8-million budget request, to turn one of the buildings on the site into a firearms training centre.
The decision to purchase the Bell Farm Road property was made without any consultation with the service, according to a report outlining capital requirements for the facility.
“At the time of purchase, it was recognized and informally agreed upon by all stakeholders that this was a temporary solution, in anticipation of a new or alternate police headquarters in the near future,” the report states.
At the time of purchase, the building needed significant refurbishment to meet the needs of the police department. It remained vacant until 2015, when the service moved in to accommodate its quartermaster, property and evidence, training, and policy and research units.
When it was bought by the city, staff recommended $1.3 million be made available for upgrades to meet the needs of the service, but council ended up approving $650,000 of the amount, which, says the report, determined what could be done in terms of renovations.
“Strategically speaking, it seemed practical that with a limited budget, and a vision of a ‘stop-gap’ occupancy, the building would undergo only minimal renovations and required maintenance. Many much-needed items were eliminated from the scope, in hopes that the building would suit the service’s needs during this transitional timeframe.”
By the end of 2015, $850,000 had been spent, including an additional $200,000 for a fire-suppression system. Deferred items included dealing with ground-water seepage, an inefficient heating system, replacing a flat roof, replacing HVAC units nearing the end of their life cycle, and rotted stairs at the front entrance. The “catch-up” costs amount to $500,000 for 2020.
Additional repairs may be needed as a detailed analysis of the facility was not completed.
“These repairs and analysis were not completed as expectations were that all units housed at 79 Bell Farm Rd. would be moving to the new headquarters location at 110 Fairview in 2020. The Barrie Simcoe Emergency Services Campus (BSESC) would be comprised of an administrative building (Building A), a training building (Building B) and a fleet building (Building C).”
However, in 2017, council asked the campus team to, in an attempt to contain costs, scale back the scope of the project and defer the construction of the training centre. Council subsequently approved that deferral. The move meant that savings of $29,144,391 might be realized “when both the Barrie Police Service and Barrie Fire and Emergency Services portions were taken into account,” states the report.
Removing the training building meant the project would proceed with the administrative and fleet buildings, at a cost of $103,335,470.
“Funds from the BSESC project were not allocated for the necessary renovations and maintenance at 79 Bell Farm Road. Further, capital considerations were not assumed by the project, nor was there any immediate strategy considered to address the service’s need of a viable training facility with room for growth and a firearms range. With the cancellation of Building B, there was no consideration given for the critical needs of the training unit that were to be addressed by the new facility.”
When the campus opens, scheduled for early 2020, all operations from police facilities at 79 Bell Farm Rd., 29 Sperling Dr., and 60 Bell Farm Rd. will relocated to the Fairview address, with the exception of the entire training unit.
“There are currently no funds allocated for the essential maintenance and renovations needed to ensure that 79 Bell Farm remains a safe and supportive physical environment that continues to offer much-needed training to Barrie Police Service members.”
Last May, meetings were held to discuss the capital requirements of the Bell Farm Road location that would permit the facility to continue to be used as a training unit. Two funding requests were submitted to council: $500,000 for 2020, and $1 million for 2021.
“79 Bell Farm Road is clearly in need of a major overhaul. From basic renovations and long-deferred maintenance, to renovations needed to support the building’s new role as a back-up communications (centre) and a dedicated police training facility, there are many requirements to bring the building up to the high standards that the community has come to expect from the Barrie Police Service,” states the report which identified two “significant goals” the upgrades would achieve:
- Upgrade a neglected building to meet the needs of the service and provide a practical, accessible and hospitable occupancy to its members and guests.
- Enhance the infrastructure of the service’s training unit, to allow it to properly schedule and and train our members for the foreseeable future, or until the completion of Building B at the BSCESC.