February 16, 2017 · 0 Comments
By Mike Pickford
It has taken several years, but Orangeville Council and the greater public now have an answer as to how much it would cost the municipality to move community policing from the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) – and the figure is probably a lot more than most were expecting.
Following a 2 1/2-hour presentation and discussion, Sergeant Kevin Hummel, a contract analyst with the OPP’s Municipal Policing Bureau, told Orangeville council it would cost just north of $7.8 million annually for the provincial body to provide the community’s policing services, with an additional $1 million required in the first year to cover “one-time startup and capital costs”, bringing the actual first year amount up to $8.7 million.
In what was one of the busiest council sessions in recent memory, close to 100 residents shuffled their way into a packed council chamber on Monday (Feb. 13), with more seated in the Opera House upstairs, to hear what the OPP had to say, and many left slightly disappointed with the budget the OPP had proposed.
The call to have the OPP put forth a costing proposal came after several years of controversies, alleged mismanagement and Police Act hearings at OPS. Mayor Jeremy Williams kicked off the meeting by admitting he was one of frontrunners calling for a costing proposal and said he looked forward to hearing what Sgt. Hummel and his team had to say.
“At the time of the request, our own police service was faced with some challenges that substantially increased the costs of the service. There wasn’t a good atmosphere throughout the community when it came to the OPS,” Mayor Williams said. “At that time, the OPP had a more competitive costing model than it perhaps does now, so we pushed ahead with the request.”
Sgt. Hummel was quick to point out that he wouldn’t be comparing the OPP service with OPS at any point during the presentation and maintained that the two organizations enjoy a “great working relationship” in the region.
That news, while not a surprise, was likely not welcomed by members of council, who at various times during the meeting stressed a need to carry out an “apples to apples” comparison of the costs, workforce and services each police force would be providing.
In the Town’s 2017 budget, the OPS is planning to spend roughly $9.7 million, with about $1.55 million of that offset by different revenue streams. As a result, its net budget for the year comes in at $8.2 million – far and away the biggest expense in the municipality’s near $30-million operating budget.
While the OPP cost does come in below the current OPS budget, Mayor Williams was quick to warn council that there were several factors to consider before jumping into an agreement simply because it’s the supposedly cheaper alternative.
“I think when we compare OPS to the OPP, now knowing the costs, there really isn’t much of a reason for us to consider bringing in the OPP,” Mayor Williams told the Citizen. “Now we know that it’s actually going to cost us more in that first year to bring in the OPP, and that’s without considering some of the costs not listed or brought up today.”
Those costs Mayor Williams is referring to may relate to the required upgrades Sgt. Hummel revealed would be needed at the current OPS facility on C Line.
“There are some issues at the station that would require some attention. We would need to modify the facility to ensure it meets OPP guidelines. The costs to upgrade the facility would come at the Town’s expense,” Sgt. Hummel said, noting there were “eight or nine minor” problems that would need to be attended to. While Council did ask the question, Sgt. Hummel refused to give any details regarding the potential added costs involved, stating he did not have that information at this time.
There was also some uncertainty surrounding the actual cost of a full-time OPP service in Orangeville after Sgt. Hummel stated his presentation, and the appropriate numbers only covered the first three years of a contract between the provincial policing body and the municipality – something he called a “transitional period”. Once that period is over (in 2020), Orangeville would be brought in to the OPP’s regular billing model, although Sgt. Hummel offered no details regarding updated costs there. He indicated his team would be willing to come back before Council and make a presentation on that billing model.
Other financial considerations related to the costs involved with maintaining the municipality’s current Police Services Board, any applicable costs associated with the storage of electronic and physical records, potential pension divestments and possible severance packages for OPS staff.
Currently OPS has 42 uniformed police officers and 27 full-time and part-time civilian staff members. The proposal put forth by the OPP would see them maintain the 42 officers, with a full-time equivalent of 42.58 uniformed officers, while reducing the civilian positions down to just 10.
Sgt. Hummel admitted the reduction in civilian staff numbers was a “contentious issue” after Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock quizzed him on the topic, but he said it was an “unfortunate” side-effect of amalgamating police forces. Instead, he indicated the 27 civilian staff members would be able to apply for the 10 positions up for grabs under an OPP model in Orangeville.
The biggest bone of contention councillors appeared to have with the proposal was with the way OPP would operate its services in Orangeville. Dufferin OPP Staff Sergeant Nicol Randle noted that there would always be one sergeant and seven constables stationed in Orangeville, although, when quizzed by Council, she admitted any of those seven constables could be dispatched outside of Orangeville if there was an incident that required police attention. Orangeville would then be reimbursed for any hours officers spend dealing with out-of-town incidents.
“I’m not sure we want or we particularly need that,” Mayor Williams said. “We know what we get right now with OPS. I don’t think there’s any need to mess with a system we’ve worked so hard to fix and get back on track.”
How the rest of council feels regarding the proposal is unclear, but the issue will likely be discussed on April 3, as the OPS has committed itself to putting together its own costing proposal for the same period. Once that session has concluded, it’s expected the town will host a public information session where local residents can provide their thoughts on the issue.
“I think the only information we’re truly lacking that doesn’t already lie within these reports is the opinion of the people of Orangeville. What is it they want? We haven’t heard a whole lot from them as of now,” Mayor Williams said. “My hope is we get this thing done as soon as possible now. We’ve got a deadline of August 13 where we need to decide if we want to switch over to the OPP, but I don’t want to see council take that long. My hope is that council sees what it needs to see on April 3, and then we can vote on the issue.”