Construction has begun on an $8.9-million permanent detention facility for the Brandon Police Service in Manitoba, a project that was first announced two years ago with an expected price tag of half that amount.
The cost of seeing the project to completion was more than doubled to offset the impact of inflation, according to the provincial government.
The money is being used to build office space and 17 modern permanent holding cells at the police services building on Victoria Avenue and 10th Street that will replace temporary modular ones.
Construction crews have been at the site since September. The cells are scheduled to be completed by August 2023. Attached vehicle bays will be completed by January 2024.
CW2 Construction & Design Ltd. of Brandon is building the permanent facility.
Initially, the project, coupled with the temporary modular cells, received $4.4 million for the work through the Manitoba Restart Program, but project costs unexpectedly rose with global inflation.
Brandon Police Chief Wayne Balcaen said he is excited to see the project come to fruition.
“Having the Manitoba government’s full financial commitment and continued support will allow the construction of a modern, permanent facility that will ensure a safe and secure environment.”
The new structure will be a state-of-the-art facility that will provide effective and safe housing for people that have to be detained by police, he said.
“Our facility will enable us to do that safely and effectively here.”
Brandon police need the permanent detention facility to replace the standalone temporary holding cells it has used since 2021. The police service had a long-standing lockup agreement with the provincial government, but it ended in June 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police had housed detainees at the Brandon Correctional Centre but had to accommodate them at the police station before appearing in court.
The direct lockup agreement was suspended to keep COVID-19 out of the provincial jail system and was later made permanent. Six temporary holding cells were built in 2021 behind the police service headquarters. The present building currently has six permanent holding cells.
Balcaen said a concern during the pandemic was the safety of inmates and personnel at the correctional centre if intoxicated individuals were constantly being checked in and out.
“With that, we had to implement a plan here at the Brandon Police Service and I was able to reach out to our government partners in justice and they determined at that time that we needed some assistance because of the change of agreement,” he said. “So, at that time, they came up with the plan to start a temporary detention centre and then move to a permanent facility.”
Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said that despite the best efforts of the City of Brandon and the police service, “estimated project costs unexpectedly rose due to global inflation, so we have stepped up to help them realize this worthy project.”
The new detention centre will ensure that both police and individuals who are brought in off the street are safe and in an appropriate facility, he said.
At an announcement ceremony, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said police officers risk their health and safety and put their lives on the line every day.
“Our government is taking action to ensure our law enforcement personnel have the tools they need to deal with those who choose a life outside the law,” she said.
“We know that these permanent cells are critical infrastructure for the safe detention of prisoners in Brandon.”
Stefanson noted the new detention centre is another step in the government’s ongoing commitment to do whatever it takes to support law enforcement teams and make communities safe. It will be linked to a sobering assessment centre to be built at the same location for people detained while they’re intoxicated. The assessment centre will relieve pressure on the health care system.
The funding is the latest in a string of recent provincial promises focused on crime and public safety.
The province has announced millions of dollars to support new collaborative and integrated initiatives to target violent offenders who endanger public safety, Stefanson said. In 2021, $2 million was announced to operate the sobering centre in Brandon and $200,000 was set aside through the Criminal Property Forfeiture Program for police equipment, training and crime prevention programming.