Police look to expand office in Pitt Meadows

Cost estimated at $1.3 million

Ridge Meadows RCMP constables Krista Doncaster and Mathew Condon share this cramped office space in Pitt Meadows.

Ridge Meadows RCMP constables Krista Doncaster and Mathew Condon share this cramped office space in Pitt Meadows.

Constables Krista Doncaster and Mat Condon have to carefully manoeuvre around the office they share in Pitt Meadows Family Recreation Centre.

Opening a drawer, moving their chairs or having a conversation on a phone can be tricky in the cramped space.

A disused shower next to their office has been turned into a storage room.

The traffic section’s computer has been relegated to a chilly room in a corner shared with a shotgun safe, Christmas decorations, two bicycles and the “Safety Bear” mascot costume.

The boardroom doubles as an interview room when needed, the table has been folded and propped against a wall behind three flags.

“It’s not ideal,” says Const. Doncaster.

On Wednesday, a man wanted on a Canada-wide warrant walked into the office to turn himself in, just as a group of children from Pitt Meadows elementary stopped by to treat themselves to Halloween candy.

Originally opened as a community policing office, the space has become a satellite detachment to Maple Ridge, where people walk in to report crimes and officers conduct interviews with little privacy.

“As Pitt Meadows gets busier, the office gets used more and more,” said Doncaster.

The 1,480-square-foot office is shared by two constables per watch, an office manager, volunteers and other general duty or specialized team officers who may need access RCMP database while in the city.

Driving to Maple Ridge – a 20-minute trip – just isn’t practical, especially for the constables who are required to remain in the city throughout their shift.

“Clearly this location has evolved. People are literally using it as a police office,” Supt. Dave Walsh told council on Tuesday.

“They are coming in to the front counter, making sensitive complaints, and there really is no place for them to speak to an officer. The only alternative is to kick officers out of their offices to give them some privacy.”

As a result, RCMP has requested a $1.3 million expansion to the office, to be done in two phases.

The first would see the office grow by 884 square  feet, into an adjacent craft room, while the second would see the space turn into a “full” police office with an additional 2,100 sq. ft.

Money for the project, though, has to be found. Details about funding will be discussed during the budget planning process, which begins Nov. 29.

“We want to have a police presence on the ground, but we need to prioritize limited resources,” said Coun. John Becker, who is seeking the mayor’s seat.

The sale of 4.67 hectares of farmland in Bonson, so it can be developed into townhomes and low-rise apartments, could net the city millions of dollars and perhaps cover the costs.

Becker, though, would prefer that the money be used to pay down the city’s current debt instead of spending it on new projects.

“While I support the concept of expanding the police facility, I would struggle with the notion of borrowing,” he added.

“We do have a functional CPO right now and we do have a greater police presence and we do have a safe community, but borrowing $1 million is not something I would approve come November.”

Coun. Deb Walters, who is also vying for the mayor’s seat, isn’t keen on borrowing money to fund the expansion next year, either, but realizes that officers “are literally sitting on top of each other” and need more space.

“Our citizens always ask about police presence. The [police] have made a great effort to be here. But whenever they have to process anyone, they have to leave Pitt Meadows and go up to Maple Ridge,” Walters said. “It is important that we provide interview rooms for that so they can start their day here and end their day here. Then we are assured that those officers are in our community.”

She added that there will be extra space when the seniors’ vacate the family recreation centre, “and there is expression of interest in the sale of our property, so debt could be paid off and then we could proceed with other things that need to be done in our community.”