City council has taken the first step towards obtaining a $36 million long-term loan for almost half the cost of the Abbotsford Police Department’s (APD) renovation and expansion.
Council passed the first three readings at its meeting on Dec. 6 of a bylaw authorizing the city to obtain the loan through the Municipal Finance Authority over 20 years.
The bylaw will now be reviewed by the province before it can come back to council for final approval.
The total estimated cost of the APD project is $76 million, with the other $40 million to be covered by internal general capital reserves.
A staff report to council states that the loan is being recommended because it takes into account that other city projects will need future funding such as water sources, a new fire hall, and Fraser Highway upgrades.
The report also states that interest and borrowing rates are currently at historical lows, and there is flexibility to repay the loan in 10 or 15 years.
“It is in line with the city’s debt management policy, which seeks to minimize the property tax rate, keeping debt service cost low and maintaining financial flexibility.”
Coun. Sandy Blue said she supports the staff recommendation for the loan.
“This scenario, I think, will really help us to stay within our debt-servicing limit and lessen the impact on taxpayers over the term,” she said.
Coun. Dave Loewen, agreed, saying extending the loan over 20 years means that “future taxpayers will also be sharing the burden” of the cost.
Council previously voted to expand and renovate the current APD headquarters, rather than construct a new building.
Council was told that the APD is outgrowing its current building and needs space for the future.
The project includes expanding the building from two storeys to four, leaving approximately 15,000 square feet on the top floor to allow for future growth.
The original funding estimate was $60 million, but a new plan was presented in November, indicating that costs had grown mainly due to the pandemic, including disruptions in the supply chain, commodity costs for construction materials, a shortage of qualified labour and inflationary pressures.
Construction is expected to run from September 2022 to December 2024.
The existing headquarters dates back to 1988, when it served the Matsqui Police Department. That force had 74 officers at the time.
The APD, which was created after the amalgamation of Matsqui and the District of Abbotsford, now has some 220 officers and 80 civilian staff. Over the next 20 years, it expects to add 100 more total staff.