Hundreds attended grand opening of OPP centre

For Police Services Board chairman Lynda White, it was a dream finally coming true, as she acted as master of ceremonies for the opening of the new OPP operations centre here on April 29.

White said it took “years of careful planning” to get the centre in place after three local police services at amalgamation merged into the first OPP detachment ever operated by a county in Ontario.

The centre, which is 18,800 square feet in size, is located adjacent to the Wellington County Museum and Archives on County Road 18 between Elora and Fergus.

It was designed by architectural firm The Ventin Group, and built by Tambro Construction Ltd., of Guelph.

“Public safety remains a key priority for the County of Wellington,” said Warden Chris White.

“As the County continues to grow, so has the need for a larger policing facility … It makes a lot of sense to put this in the heart of the county … This new, centrally-located operations centre will enhance community policing needs for many years to come.”

Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said the county received environmental and heritage awards recently, and she is pleased those have “been preserved” in the new building.

“Thanks to the county for being meticulous,” she said.

OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis attended and said, “With this building we will deliver the best service possible.”

He noted the former OPP station in downtown Fergus had one-third the space of the new building, and he is particularly pleased at the public meeting space that is provided to keep the OPP a part of the community.

He also saluted the county for its decision to keep its Mounted Unit a few years ago.

“The Mounties don’t believe it when we tell them we have horses, too,” Lewis said.

Chief Superintendent John Cain, of the Western Region OPP, noted, “Ten years ago we got together and talked an operations centre. Wellington County wanted to step outside the box and build for the future.”

He said that with the Rockwood OPP station in 2006, the OPP now has two new buildings in Wellington, and he added that while they are both modern, the newest one in Aboyne has some extra features.

Those include the county’s green initiatives. The county built the facility using the Green Legacy building standards and it meets the Emerald level of certification, which is the county’s highest building standard. The centre includes a ground-mounted 10 kilowatt solar energy system, which offsets the electrical power usage of the building, and a rainwater harvesting system supplying water to toilets, urinals and landscape hose connections.

County OPP Inspector Scott Smith said, “Ensuring the safety and security of our residents and their property is our top priority. This modern policing facility is great place for our officers to interact with our residents and provide them with the best service possible.”

The $5.8-million centre will be able to hold many more officers and civilian personnel.

Smith said the morale of all the personnel in the new building is evident with the smiles of people coming to work.

Smith noted there were officers from Guelph and the Region of Waterloo in the audience that day, and said police no longer have boundaries, but work hand in hand with each other for the safety of citizens.

He also said, to a large laugh from the audience, “When I get close to retirement,” the Wellington Terrace seniors’ home is nearby, and if he survives long enough, he might get his picture in the nearby museum.

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong saluted the county for its foresight in building the centre, and said Wellington County is the second safest jurisdiction in Canada according to a recent national survey.

To the police he said, “I thank you each and every day for being there.”

Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott said, “The county recognizes the benefits of the OPP and our communities are safer because of that leadership.”

Arnott said it was only 50 weeks ago he attended a sod turning for the building, and now it is “a perfect fit.”

The OPP had a number of demonstrations scheduled for the day, and people could watch the K-9 Unit perform, wander the grounds and admire the horses from the Mounted Unit and also tour the new station.