Groundbreaking held for new OPP site

Ken Kellar

Two special dignitaries were in Fort Frances on Monday for an important ceremony.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones joined Fort Frances Mayor June Caul and Rainy River OPP detachment commander Insp. Nathan Schmidt at the site of the future Rainy River OPP detachment on Colonization Road West for the official groundbreaking ceremony.

Rickford, who was in Mine Centre earlier in the day to announce funding for Hyatt’s Manion Lake Camp, opened the ceremony.

“It may be raining a little here, but the sun has been shining down on Fort Frances and Rainy River District for about a year now,” Rickford said.

“I’m delighted to be joined by my friend and colleague, the Solicitor General. We’re not just here to make the announcement today; obviously, you can see this is about shovels going into the ground.”

The province had previously announced a $20-million investment to build a new OPP detachment at 901 Colonization Road West in August 2018. The 19,000 sq. foot facility will be a marked upgrade over the building currently in use next to the Civic Centre in downtown Fort Frances, which the OPP moved into more than 20 years ago.

Construction on the site, set to be finished next year, began in the spring. Bird Construction is overseeing development of the new police buildings across Ontario.

Rickford took a moment to recognize Hugh Dennis, the former detachment commander, for the work that he had done in making the new building a reality.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say he was involved in leading a charge for a new asset,” Rickford remarked.

“And the leaders that followed him and the members that we see here today, I think, are going to breathe a sigh of relief as this asset becomes a reality. The fine men and women who serve us in uniform should have an asset that speaks to the quality of their work and the commitment to their community.”

Jones took to the podium to share that the modernization of OPP precincts across the province was one of the priorities of her government.

“We have a proud tradition in Ontario of being served by the OPP, over a hundred years, and yet as some days I wonder whether our detachments are as old as our history,” Jones said.

“So we are committed as a government to upgrade our facilities to have the policies in place to protect the individuals who have chosen to protect us and our communities.

Like Rickford, Jones stressed that the projects were all being responsibly budgeted.

“They are all private-public partnerships,” Jones said.

“Which really means that from the sod breaking to the opening facility, the budget will be in place and will be consistently applied. ‘No surprises’ is our mantra as a government and it works with our builds.”

Mayor Caul also spoke to the assembled crowd, detailing the need for the new police building.

“Insp. Schmidt took me through the old [detachment] that they are presently using just after I was inaugurated as mayor,” Mayor Caul said.

“It had been quite a few years since I had been there with my class when I was still teaching school, and I just kept thinking, ‘I’m sure glad that I don’t work in this place because the paint is off the walls.’

“Never mind when he showed me the cells. Nobody deserves to be in those cells, so I know where this is coming from and how important it is to have a new one,” she added.

According to the province, the new detachment will have seven holding cells, as well as CCTV, an evidence vault and other advanced security features.

“This new detachment centre will have an updated technological improvement, which is so needed nowadays,” Mayor Caul said.

“You’ll be able to better manage calls and reporting and record-keeping and it’s much needed for sure. I know there will be a safer lock up area for prisoners and it will be safer for police staff as well.”

Insp. Schmidt, currently the detachment commander, said it was encouraging to have the government recognize how out-of-date the Fort Frances detachment building was.

“The OPP was pleased when we learned that our government identified the current facility as having reached its useful life span and that it was being replaced with a new state-of-the-art detachment,” Insp. Schmidt said.

“Despite having worked out of an antiquated and cramped building for many years, these members have done a tremendous job of keeping the people who live in and visit the Rainy River District safe on our highways, roads, waterways and trails,” he added.

“As does every OPP member, they too recognize that meeting the needs of the people they serve is vital to the delivery of our Public Safety mandate,” continued Insp. Schmidt.

“Once this fine team of uniform, civilian and volunteer personnel occupy this new detachment, they will have the modern space and resources they need to do an even better job than they are now–if that’s even possible.”

The project is part of a $182-million investment that will see 18 new buildings built for the OPP across the province, from new detachments like the one on Colonization Road West, to regional command centres and forensics labs.

Each of the new buildings is aiming to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. LEED is an international rating system built to recognize green and environmentally-friendly buildings.