The regular meeting of Kimberley City Council on Monday evening, November 9, 2015, had a lot going on, including a couple of lively discussions/almost-arguments over the issue of jail cells.
The issue before council is this — for five years, rather than upgrade the cells in Kimberley at considerable cost, prisoners of Kimberley RCMP are sent to Cranbrook RCMP cells, where they are housed for a cost. The city of Kimberley signed a contract with the city of Cranbrook for the service, and that contract is now up for renewal for another five-year term.
As explained by RCMP Cpl. Chris Newel, the Kimberley Detachment NCO in Charge, prisoners are the responsibility of a detachment until they make their first court appearance, which must be within 24 hours. After that, should they remain in custody, they are the responsibility of the province. So the number of prisoners Kimberley may be responsible for housing in a year is usually less than 40.
It’s not a huge amount of money, but some Councillors took exception to the city of Cranbrook building in a five per cent increase to costs each year. Some of that amount is inflation, but some of it — it was learned through discussion between staff of both cities — was to assist Cranbrook in the upgrading of their cells.
And this is where Kimberley Council had an issue. As Darryl Oakley put it — “We should not be putting money into Cranbrook infrastructure with Kimberley tax dollars.”
Council had discussed the issue at the Committee of the Whole meeting last week, which Mayor Don McCormick had missed. McCormick said he was quite surprised to return and find a movement afoot to investigate refurbishing and updating Kimberley’s cells rather than sign the agreement with Cranbrook.
But before the discussion even got underway, Coun. Kent Goodwin suggested it move in camera as that was the practice when negotiations were in process. However, that motion was defeated, the reason being that it had already been discussed at an open committee of the whole meeting.
“Essentially, we are negotiating with ourselves,” the mayor said. “There’s nothing wrong with it being in a public forum.”
To McCormick, whether upgrading Kimberley’s cells was the way to go or not — and he argued that it could cost in the area of $500,000 to do so — was not the issue. The issue, he said, was the contract was before Council now.
“We don’t have an answer for what’s the best return on our money right now. We don’t have incremental operation costs. We need to do work in our capital budgeting to look at this (refurbishing the Kimberley Detachment building).
“But in the short term, we need to move ahead with the contract.
“Cranbrook is not making a bunch of money on this. It’s basically break even.”
Still, a number of Councillors, including Albert Hoglund want to investigate the actual costs of refurbishing, suggesting there is another study that suggests it could be done quite a bit cheaper than $500,000.
The notion of paying even a small portion of Cranbrook infrastructure irked some councillors.
When McCormick suggested that it would be expending political capital to push on the five per cent, Goodwin replied that Cranbrook Council was also expending political goodwill by insisting on it.
“I want them to know that they have injected an irritant. We have to let them know we don’t understand why five per cent. Did we counter-offer?”
“We offered three per cent,” said City CAO Scott Sommerville. “They said no, we want five.”
“I searched Cranbrook Council minutes and there wasn’t any record of discussion of this,” Goodwin said. “Maybe it was done in camera.”
In the end, Council decided to sign the agreement — “reluctantly” said Hoglund — on jail cells, though Councillors Middlebrook, Oakley and Goodwin voted no. There will also be follow up work done on costing renovations and upgrades to the Kimberley detachment building.