Sandi Banni is concerned about the loss of amenities, including shade trees, if a new RCMP detachment is built on Harris Road. (Special to the News)

Sandi Banni is concerned about the loss of amenities, including shade trees, if a new RCMP detachment is built on Harris Road. (Special to the News)

LETTER: Many lack of opportunity to comment on Pitt Meadows RCMP plan

Residents should be able to vote directly on whether to spend millions on a detachment

Dear Editor,

Pitt Meadows residents deserve better than this.

Despite a Stage 2 lockdown in a pandemic the mayor and council decided to go ahead and push forward an unneeded vote to remove 2,320 metres of parkland to build a new $18 million ‘plus’ Police Building in order to splinter off from our services agreement with the RCMP in Maple Ridge and have our own autonomous detachment.

Pitt Meadows has the lowest crime rate in B.C. per population and less than 20,000 residents.

Unfortunately this vote left many residents blindsided, because they just didn’t know about it.

The voting form was on the city website but could not be completed online. It had to be printed, signed and sent to city hall in order to fulfill the requirements. Anyone who didn’t have a printer could not do so. City hall was closed at 4:30 p.m. and weekends, further reducing the ability of many workers to access the forms.

We were also in the middle of a record ’severe heat wave’ in which residents were advised to stay at home and keep cool wherever possible, further impeding the voting process.

Unfortunately this wasn’t “just” about removing park land. It also mean’t that the entire corner area of land bordering Harris Road would be totally lost and the facilities destroyed including nine beautiful mature shade trees, the picnic area, public washrooms, storage shed and baseball diamond.

The Art Gallery would also be lost from this location.

It should be noted that each tree can take up as much as 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk, 150 gallons a day in some cases. This stops run off from concrete ending up in our drains, raising the level of the rivers and helps keep us flood free during heavy torrential rain. Also, the trees offer a shady space to shelter in very hot weather when people are walking along Harris Road.

Only recently the City expanded and renovated the Current Community Police Building to a tune of around $1 million so this would now waste more taxpayers’ money.

This vote could easily have waited until next year. While it met the requirements of Section 86 of the Community Charter, I think that Pitt Meadows residents deserve to be treated to more than minimum requirements. It would have been easy for the city to say, ‘we want to be fair because this is such a big decision to make and as we are in a pandemic, we will take a second step and mail voting forms to every resident so that it is totally inclusive of all tax paying residents and everyone is fully informed.”

Every single tax paying resident in PM should have the opportunity to vote with all the facts and costs laid out in full. I don’t personally believe that $31 million ‘plus’ expenditures for a new fire hall and police building are reasonable when many residents are just financially “hanging on” and trying to regain some sort of normalcy after 16 months in a pandemic, many experiencing job losses and reduced hours.

Stressed residents should not have to feel that they have to scour through council meetings and newspapers every week just to make sure they are not going to be blindsided by major decisions such as this.

I am calling for the mayor and council to delay this decision and wait until election year when every single resident will have the opportunity to vote on this issue with all costs and future implications fully laid out.

Residents are not overwhelmingly in support as was previously suggested. I also don’t believe that $18 million is anywhere enough to cover a fully autonomous police building and detachment. Sources I’ve spoken to indicate $30 million would be a more realistic amount.

This is not just about a piece of park land but a much bigger issue. Pitt Meadows residents should all be given the chance to vote on this issue. They deserve no less.

Sandie Banni, Pitt Meadows

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