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Town’s decision to preserve OPS criticized at council, Monday

June 29, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

The debate surrounding community policing in Orangeville reared its head again Monday night with four members of Council coming in for heavy criticism from some residents, who were unhappy with the June 12 vote that saw the municipality retain its Orangeville Police Service.

Four residents stepped forward during question period to express their dismay at Mayor Jeremy Williams, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock and Councillors Gail Campbell and Nick Garisto having voted to reject the Ontario Provincial Police’s costing proposal, despite recommendations from Town staff to accept it.

CAO Ed Brennan had recommended the OPP as its community police force on May 29, on grounds an eventual $4.3 million in annual savings would allow council to “build the community the way (they) want it” and enable them to tackle a growing infrastructure deficit and address several costly upcoming projects. He projected that between 2021 and 2025 the municipality could save about $23 million.

Orangeville resident Craig Campbell took exception to what he perceived as “total bias” on the part of Mayor Williams and Councillor Campbell, calling for them to issue an official apology.

“I decided to come here this evening to display my absolute disgust and dismay at Council not to save taxpayers so much money that it would have been like the Town winning the lottery each and every year,” he said. “I’ve never seen such ludicrous, irresponsible behaviour… I want the four councillors to tell me to my face that they don’t care about the dismal financial situation this town is in, and how its residents are among the highest-taxed people in Ontario.”

Mr. Campbell made reference to a letter he had sent Orangeville newspapers last week in which he claimed the Town’s monetary and infrastructure debt has spiralled out of control in recent years. Click here to read the letter.

Mayor Williams contended there were a lot of “half-truths” in the letter, denying that he had been biased in the OPP costing proposal process.

“After reading your letter, I feel there is so much included in there that… I’d love to use different words, but I will just say there’s a lot of information that I disagree with wholeheartedly. I’m not going to answer some of the ridiculous claims because they are, quite frankly, ridiculous claims,” Mayor Williams said.

In what the mayor decreed was an “out of order” comment, Mr. Campbell bellowed that “everyone in town thought this was a done deal”, in favour of the OPP, before saying the only thing the people of Orangeville wanted to hear out of the mayor’s mouth was an apology.

When Mayor Williams asked Mr. Campbell to leave the council chambers and Mr. Campbell refused, the mayor ordered a five-minute recess, stating he would have police escort Mr. Campbell out of the building if he would not leave of his own accord. With many in the gallery shaking their heads in disbelief, Mr. Campbell agreed to leave and was followed by Alan Toms and Bob Long – two others who were planning to speak out against council’s decision, and several other attendees. The fourth individual, Mark Whitcombe, remained sitting for most of the meeting.

In his comments, Mr. Toms said Council has a financial responsibility to ensure taxpayer money is being spent wisely and that he doesn’t believe it acted appropriately in the June 12 vote. Mr. Whitcombe said he was “ashamed of the timidity” of Council in refusing to accept the evidence on hand, while Mr. Long, perhaps supporting one of Mr. Campbell’s claims, said he believed it was a foregone conclusion that the Town would vote in favour of the OPP, calling the decision a “no-brainer”. He went on to criticize Deputy Mayor Maycock for wanting to pass the issue off to the community and make it a key election topic in 2018.

“More than 35 years ago, I took the same oath that you did… You all agreed to truly, faithfully and impartially exercise this office to the best of your knowledge and ability. That doesn’t mean just ignoring this decision and waiting a year and a half for the voters to decide, that means when you’re asked to make a decision you make a decision,” Mr. Long said. “I must say, Deputy Mayor, I was terribly disappointed that that happened.”

And while much of the comments related to the financial implications of Council’s  decision, before he left the gallery Mr. Campbell commented on the quality of service OPP provides in Caledon.

“The Town of Caledon has continuously been named the safest municipality in Canada in recent years and guess what, they’re policed by the OPP. Why is it that some members of council feel the OPP service level is a concern? Do you ever feel that perhaps our service levels are too high, or our admin staffing levels are too high?” Mr. Campbell said.

Mayor Williams said the decision was one all of Council had thought long and hard about before coming to a final verdict.

“I want to be crystal clear, there were four votes on council that supported OPS and not OPP. There was an assumption that OPP were in fact cheaper, some of us on council did not agree with that information,” Mayor Williams said. “When a decision does not go your way, that does not give you the right to yell, make rude comments or have other outbursts.”

         

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