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Town Council votes 4-3 to reject Ontario Provincial Police takeover

June 16, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

The vote is officially in. The Orangeville Police Service is here to stay.

Following months of council deliberations, public input, financial reports and everything else in between, Orangeville Council by a 4-3 vote Monday evening decided not to accept an Ontario Provincial Police costing proposal in favour of maintaining its local community police force.

Mayor Jeremy Williams, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock and Councillors Nick Garisto and Gail Campbell voted against the takeover, while Councillors Scott Wilson, Sylvia Bradley and Don Kidd supported it, because of the promised long-term savings for taxpayers.

It is an issue that has both divided a community and served to intensify already fractious relationships among Orangeville’s elected officials, but at least for the time being, it is one that has been put to bed with Council offering a reassuring vote of confidence to Police Chief Wayne Kalinski and the rest of the Orangeville Police Service (OPS).

Speaking to the Citizen following the heavily anticipated vote, Chief Kalinski said he was thankful for all of those in the community who have so strongly supported the local police force in recent months, stating he was now looking forward to moving on and putting the past few months behind him.

“I am very happy with our staff and would like to go on record to thank all of the citizens for everything they’ve done in order to help us continue to provide their police service for their town. Also, I would like to commend Council for making the decision our citizens wanted,” Chief Kalinski said. “The people of Orangeville were very much behind us on this issue.”

While all the stats, figures and arguments for both sides have been very well documented over the past few weeks, Council members largely chose not to discuss the issue further on Monday, instead deciding simply to explain their vote before a packed crowd in the gallery.

Up first was Deputy Mayor Maycock, who had, right up until the vote, remained tight-lipped throughout the entire debate. He pointed out to the public that he had a long history of making tough decisions in his time on both Orangeville and Dufferin County councils, but that he felt this was something the public should ultimately decide during the 2018 municipal election.

“I am a big believer in democracy, even though I believe the electors got it wrong in the election of 2014, they got what they voted for,” Deputy Mayor Maycock said. “During the 2014 election, only three candidates made policing a key issue in their campaign. … Only two of those sit on council today. … So I say let the citizens of this great town decide. Let the candidates running in the 2018 election take a stand on this very important issue and by doing so, the residents of Orangeville will get to decide.”

Coun. Garisto suggested he would like to see a referendum included alongside next year’s election to find out once and for all how the majority of Orangeville voters feel. He also suggested ahead of Council’s vote that he would have difficulty voting in favour of a service that calculates its costs based on the volume of calls for service.

“That kind of system makes me very, very worried,” Coun. Garisto said.

Mayor Williams remained silent as councillors shared their opinions, later telling the Citizen that he believes everything that he could possibly have said had already been put out to the public. Coun. Gail Campbell, as she has done throughout the entire OPP costing process, said that her support lies behind the men and women of the Orangeville Police force.

“As council knows, when this motion passed (in 2014) asking for the OPP to put together a costing proposal, I did not support it and I have not supported any motion since then as I feel our Orangeville Police Service works well,” Coun. Campbell said. “We have been told that in three years Orangeville will see significant savings, but I have a hard time getting my head around how that can be achieved while still providing the excellent services our residents deserve.”

In the lead-up to Monday’s vote, Town CAO Ed Brennan had calculated that the municipality stood to save as much as $4.3 million per year once it transitioned into the OPP’s new billing model in 2021. He estimated the Town could save up to $23 million by 2025 should it replace the OPS with the provincial policing service. He made a recommendation to council on May 29 to do just that – accept the savings and sign an agreement with the OPP.

Coun. Kidd, Wilson and Bradley all stood by the CAO and Treasurer Marc Villeneuve, who had previously reported the municipality could potentially save as much as $4.5 million in his initial estimations. Coun. Kidd said he could not understand how so many people have claimed this decision is about more than just dollars and cents.

“This issue is all about tax dollars. We have a professional force now, what we’re saying is let’s replace our current professional service with another professional service at a fraction of the cost,” Coun. Kidd said. “Four different agencies have supported these (savings)… An extra $4.3 million will allow future councils to pay off debt and add to reserves, and let’s not forget about our fire services. We know (we’re going to need a new fire hall), it’s just a question of when.”

Coun. Wilson maintained his stance of simply supporting the savings, stating he had absolutely no problem with the quality of service provided by the OPS, only that it came in at a cost close to two times that of the OPP following the completion of the obligatory three-year transitional contract the Town would have to enter into.

Coun. Bradley likened the OPS to a private school in her comments, saying she does not believe the Town of Orangeville can afford its own police force in today’s economy.

“This isn’t a personal thing for me, it’s a money decision. If you compare our police service to a private school, it really isn’t too dissimilar. We all pay school tax, but some parents also pay for their children to go to a private school. Residents are already paying for OPP in their provincial taxes, while they’re also paying for a private service right now with OPS. I don’t think we can afford this private service. I don’t think we can wait for another council (to come on board) to reap the benefits (of moving to OPP). The more we wait, the more money we stand to lose.”

She added, “For me, this isn’t a heart decision, this is a head decision. We have recommendations from our staff, who have all done wonderful jobs. Whenever we don’t follow the recommendations of our staff it is usually at our peril.”

Speaking to the Citizen following the vote, Coun. Bradley admitted she was bitterly disappointed to see council vote the way it did.

“This is a missed opportunity for us tonight. I absolutely think this is a decision council will regret,” Coun. Bradley said. “What this means is that there are going to be more significant tax increases in the future, so be prepared, Orangeville.”

While he was quiet during the meeting, Mayor Williams was anything but when approached by the Citizen later. He said he was delighted to see Council vote in favour of keeping the OPS and stated now was the time to start discussions regarding the possible formation of a regional police unit.

“I think this was the right vote and to me this is kind of clearing the way for what I’ve always wanted and that is a county-wide police force. We were in that direction, making great progress before, so I think now is the time to start seeing if there is a market out there still,” Mayor Williams said. “I hope Council now will realize we have a good police service. There is a bright future for policing in our region, we just have to be willing to explore it.”

While there have been calls throughout the community for a referendum to be included in the next election, not least by Coun. Garisto and at least implied by Deputy Mayor Maycock, Mayor Williams believes it’s time to start moving forward with regard to policing in Orangeville.

“I really believe that looking into a referendum is looking backwards. We need to look forward now,” Mayor Williams said. “In my eyes, we have now dealt with this issue. We’ve seen incredible feedback from the public, it’s time to move on. We’ve made our decision. Council did what the people of Orangeville wanted. Orangeville Police Service is here to stay, it is by far a superior community based police force (to the OPP). It’s time to stop (the discussion).”

New Deputy Chief

On Tuesday, the Orangeville Police Services Board approved a proposal by Chief Kalinski to begin a search for a deputy police chief, a position he held until September, 2014  when he succeeded Joseph Tomei as Orangeville’s top cop.

         

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