JAMES O'CONNOR/BRANDON SUN
Sun editorial page editor Matt Goerzen has a look at the inside of a holding room in the new Brandon Police Service station during a public tour last week.
So you take an old bank, a grocery store and a liquor outlet, add $13 million and what do you get?
The new $13-million facility site ready to moved into last week. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
A sparkling new police station right in the heart of the city where it will help police do their jobs better — something that will make Brandon an even safer community.
While walking through the maze of tall glass walls during a public tour of the new 42,000-square-foot building at 10th Street and Victoria Avenue this week, I heard from an officer about how horribly unsuited the current 18,000- square-foot building the force now uses is on 10th Street down near Richmond Avenue.
All the officers I saw were practically beaming with pride as they showed of their new digs last week.
Over the years, Sun crime reporter Ian Hitchen has done stories on the cramped conditions that hindered police work and made it hard on victims of crime.
Why it took so long to build a new station and why it was the subject of such crushing scrutiny by a succession of city councils is beyond logical thinking.
But huzzah, the place is finally built.
It’s "Brandon-beautiful" — a functional, post-Soviet design with no "Taj Mahal touches" — and expandable down the road.
And to come in at $13 million, the former council in 2010 balked at a glass atrium, a full second-floor mezzanine and its accompanying elevator and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design equivalency standards (all which made for a $16 million price tag).
For those folks who aren’t clear on why there’s so much asphalt out front — you’ll recall the original plans had either commercial or greenspace fronting Victoria — that’s because fundraising is still ongoing for a new war memorial.
The new monument will be located just off Victoria Avenue near the Brandon Armoury. It will be a majestic three-piece granite structure framed by three illuminated flagpoles.
Donations for the community project can be dropped off at the treasury office and people will be issued a tax receipt. Donations of $100 or more allow you to have the name of a veteran you wish to honour on a plaque on the memorial itself.
You will be able to read all about the Brandon police — the force and the buildings it served out of — in a special Brandon Sun multi-media project and print supplement to be released Saturday, Aug. 3.
TWO MORE EMPTY BUILDINGS
So now what will happen with the old cop shop? And more importantly, what will happen to the old Central Fire Station No. 1, which has been used a bit by police since the fire department vacated the joint in 2010 for its new station?
While the old police station and its land — a former hospital and one-time grocery store — would likely be more valuable once razed, the historical fire hall on Princess Avenue needs to be redeveloped carefully.
The Central Fire Station was constructed in 1911. Many communities all over North America have taken old fire halls and converted them into destination eateries or brew pubs. Just spend a few minutes on Google to see what I mean.
I know that’s on the mind of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and I think that would be a great use for the fire hall. The architectural charm — Chateauesque style with an Italianate tower — could be maintained and enhanced, while it would serve as another piece in the revitalization puzzle for downtown.
And just think of the unique experience that could be provided for diners in the bell tower if an elevator could be run up to make it the most sought after room in Westman.
But it would have to a be a private-sector development.
If the city was in charge, ‘Chateauesque’ and ‘Italianate’ would somehow be moulded into ‘Blah.’
And it would take decades to get done.
JUDGE SENDS STRONG MESSAGE
Finally, a jurist has the good judgment to step up the war against drunk driving.
As we now start to try to convince folks not to text and drive, it’s still far too commonplace for indifferent morons to get behind the wheel and drive drunk.
That’s a battle that’s been waged for decades.
So I was cheered to hear provincial court Judge Ray Wyant in Winnipeg took the rare step Wednesday of ignoring a Crown-defence sentencing recommendation and slapped a first-time drunk driver with a 14-day jail term, a 15-month driving prohibition and two years of supervised probation.
Jesse Friesen, 29, appeared in court, hoping to get a fine and one-year driving ban under terms of a plea bargain struck by the Crown and defence
"I want the public to know that in imposing a jail sentence on Mr. Friesen, I am sending a message and a warning that the gloves are coming off when it comes to these types of cases of drinking and driving," the Winnipeg Free Press reported Wyant as saying.
Friesen, who had no criminal record and didn’t hurt or injure anyone, has lost his opportunity to become a firefighter because of his crime. The Free Press also reported the driver expressed remorse for his actions and had strong family support in court.
But Wyant said despite all those positive factors, he felt he needed to come down hard with the type of sentence he said he’s never imposed before in these circumstances.
Here’s my favourite quote from the judge, who I knew when he was a tough-talking Crown attorney in Winnipeg:
"Driving a car while impaired is like holding a loaded gun. The potential for death and injury is great," Wyant said.
"I want the people who think they can flout the law and risk injury and death to know that as a society, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. We must take all reasonable steps to reduce the senseless carnage on our roads and highways."
Friesen has a month to file an appeal.
I hope he doesn’t, as Wyant’s sentence could then sooner serve as a precedent that other judges can use.
This is a step in the right direction.
WANNA GET TOUGHER?
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is again rumoured to be in line for a job with one of Manitoba’s highest courts.
A Manitoba Court of Appeal judge is set to resign soon and there is also one opening on the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Provencher MP and senior Manitoba cabinet minister is rumoured to be ready to retire from Parliament.
His experience as a Crown attorney — he was posted in Brandon for a while — and his time as Manitoba justice minister and attorney general would make him a fine candidate.
He’s also been justice minister in the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and is currently public safety minister.
If you think Judge Wyant kicked up some dust with his recent rules, wait until Toews shows how tough he can be.
The Judicial Advisory Committee for Manitoba recommends who should be appointed a judge.
Judges in Court of Queen’s Bench and the Manitoba Court of Appeal are federally appointed.
Currently, the JAC includes one Marni Larkin.
If the Larkin name sounds slightly familiar, that’s because she’s just been named to the CBC board of directors.
Larkin is a bright Manitoba businesswoman, who I first met when I worked at the Manitoba legislature in the late-’90s.
She’s a red-meat Tory and someone I’m pretty sure would both support Vic Toews as a judge and be ready to do the dirty work Harper wants done to scale back the CBC.
While Larkins’ appointment to both boards is clearly political patronage — and that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing — I had to laugh at the spin someone took when writing a release on the CBC appointment.
"Ms. Larkin has experience as the owner and president of two small businesses in Winnipeg," said James Maunder, spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore. "Her community involvement and volunteer experience will be a tremendous asset to CBC’s board and we wish her well in her position."
Yeah, that’s why she’s qualified. Certainly nothing to do with all the Conservative political campaigns she’s been involved with at many levels over the years.
Larkin did show some smarts by refusing to be interviewed on the matter.
So that space was filled by socialist quote-machine Pat Martin.
"Appointments should be based on merit, not the party-membership card you carry in your wallet," the NDP MP told the Free Press. "I’d be concerned if I were the CBC if they’re stacking the board with a partisan political operative."
Yeah, like the NDP wouldn’t do the same?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 13, 2012