BURK’S FALLS – The Almaguin Highlands OPP are enjoying their new state-of-the-art facility, and now guests will have a chance to give it the once over.
SHINY AND NEW.
Custodian Bob Miller was an integral part of making sure the move to the new OPP building went smoothly.
The new building was part of the OPP modernization project that saw 18 new detachments, regional headquarters and forensic services constructed in 16 communities in Ontario.
Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley says that words cannot describe staff enthusiasm with the move into the updated building with the new amenities.
“It’s the kind of workplace that we should have,” he said. “The old place we like for sentimental reasons, but it was not practical for everyday policing.”
The officers moved their belongings in and the building that housed them for many years was torn down at the end of May, but the grand opening celebration is slated for Sept. 21.
There is a guest list, which includes such dignitaries as OPP commissioner Chris Lewis and other police brass, area mayors and council members, police and staff as well as ministry officials that the police deal with on a regular basis, including those from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Social Services. They will get a private viewing from 2 to 3 p.m. Then, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. there will be an open house for the public to attend, which includes a tour of the facility.
There is now adequate parking, a proper lunch room and room to accommodate the officers.
“It’s not just the policing side that improved. It’s overall health and wellness,” said Whaley. “There is now more privacy for the public. We actually have rooms where we can take them to deal with their issues and complaints.”
Whaley says he has fielded a number of questions as to why the old detachment building had to be torn down, however, he says they needed the parking space and allotment for a backup power system.
“We needed the whole property to make this project work,” he said. “Everyone has worked very hard to make this project work.”
Bird Construction was contracted to handle the build, and Honeywell is responsible for facilities management, which includes the grounds.
Although the move was a change for everyone, it was custodian Bob Miller who took on the biggest challenges, and Whaley credits his dedication to the project and ability to make the transition smoother for everyone involved.
Miller credits the same to the officers, who he says have been treating the shiny new building with respect.
“We should feel privileged because if we didn’t get this somebody else would have,” said Whaley. “We’re all very fortunate that we were chosen to occupy this facility.”
The facility, which includes more than 12,000 square feet of space, has a community boardroom that members of the community are entitled to use. However, there is one caveat, the boardroom can only be used during business hours unless a member of the OPP is involved in the meeting, in which case accommodation can be made.
“We’re very proud of it and we do want to share it as much as we can,” said Staff Sgt. Whaley.
There is a room at the front that has been designated as the Victim’s Services office, however it is also used as a reporting office for non-emergency issues. There is a spare crime office, which the drug officer utilizes, and several new offices, including a larger space for the constables who now have their own space instead of sharing desks and computers as they did in the old location.
The constable’s office space also has a large monitor on the wall so they can keep an eye on the cells. In the main cellblock there are two individual cells and a bullpen for multiple arrests that can accommodate a handful of people. There is also a cell, separate from the rest, that is meant for young offenders, a small room where the call to the lawyer can be made, and a guard station that electronically monitors the cells.
The facility also has two garages, one of which is a sally port for the safe transfer of prisoners.
“When we bring a prisoner in we bring the car inside,” said Whaley. “The only unlocked door from the sally port is to the cellblock.”
There is also a new fingerprint and photo room as well as an intoxilyer room for blood/alcohol testing.
The building has more amenities for the officers, other than the additional elbowroom, including lockers, shower facilities, a proper lunchroom and a fitness room.
“We raised the money for the equipment on our down and officers donated some of the equipment as well,” said Whaley.
The police academy donated the treadmill.