LAC LA BICHE - Lac La Biche County’s new Protective Services Building will serve the community for years to come.
A community grand opening for the new Lac La Biche County Protective Services Building was held last Tuesday afternoon.
Delayed by pandemic restrictions for almost five months after all of the municipality's fire and enforcement services departments moved into the new, state-of-the-art building, the doors were opened to the public for tours and demonstrations.
The public event saw hundreds of community members enjoy a fun-filled day of activities, a free barbecue lunch and informational sessions about the municipality’s protective services programs. The open house was great opportunity to show residents the department’s ability to work together and function day-to-day in the new facility more effectively, said Chris Clark, the county’s manager of enforcement services.
“In terms of operations, being able to have fire and enforcement under the same roof allows us to be able to collaborate well. We’re not having to drive to be able to coordinate…if fire is coming back from a call and our peace officers are coming back from the same call, during critical incidents they’re able to do a debriefing and interact right away.”
The building on Beaverhill Road, which was once a Ford vehicle dealership, received a $6 million facility makeover turning the property into a training, dispatch and administrative headquarters for municipally-controlled emergency services.
With the new retrofitted services, Clark says the new training room has not only been hosting peace officers from across the province for training programs, but also provides local enforcement staff with new and efficient equipment for day-to-day use, like tracking patrols and officers with real-time mapping.
Although Tuesday’s open house was the first visit for many in the community, hundreds of local students have already toured the building on class visits field trips. Clark says it’s important to show young residents behind the scenes and to introduce them to officers and staff so they build relationships. That same kind of social interaction was part of Tuesday’s open house for all community members.
“It’s nice to have them see us on a different side, where we are not out there stopping them and giving them a ticket or responding to an emergency,” said Clark, explaining that a large portion of the workload is preventative policing and education. “We’re out there being proactive and engaging with them and giving them educational information and letting them see what we do on our side of the world.”
Like any good property, John Kokotilo, the county’s manager of Protective Services and Regional Fire Chief for Lac La Biche County says the new headquarters is all about location, location, location.
“We’ve got the RCMP directly across the street, we’ve got Agriculture and Forestry up the road another half a block, the seniors home on the far end of Beaver Hill Road, we’ve got four different access points in and out of the area…it’s perfect,” said Kokotilo for both mitigating fires and arriving quickly to emergencies around the county.
While the $6 million retrofit from a car dealership to an emergency services headquarters has been a large investment for the community, the cost-saving opportunities compared to constructing a new building was substantial, said Kokotilo.
“The building is retrofitted amazing with really not that much of a cost. I know it seemed like it was a lot of money but it really wasn’t. The exhaust system was in, we had the drive through bays in place, everything worked out,” he added, looking forward to utilizing the newest gem in county that will serve the community for a long time.
“This is wonderful and we had a great turnout… I think our firefighters and enforcement services departments we’re all pretty happy with what we’ve got. I’d like to thank the citizens and of course council for their support.”