Town CAO Ed Brennan recommends that council select OPP on June 12

June 1, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

If the town’s chief administrative officer has his way, Orangeville could soon be policed by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Having had months to analyze and break down the police costing proposals put forth by both the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) and the OPP,  Ed Brennan this week recommended Council side with the potential savings and enter into a long-term contract  with the OPP.

Such a move would close the book on a storied 153-year history of policing in the community but, while he admitted his verdict in no way reflected the quality of service currently provided by the OPS, Mr. Brennan suggested there should be no room for sentiment in the decision-making process.

“My recommendation is based on which service provides the best policing option for the Town considering cost and overall impact on the economy and the municipality,” Mr. Brennan said. “I’d like to make it clear, this

is simply my recommendation. It is council that will make the final decision.”

He found the potential $4.3 million in annual savings the municipality could potentially realize from 2021 onwards was just too big a number to ignore. While there have been doubters both in the community and inside council chambers questioning the validity of the numbers presented by both Mr. Brennan and Town Treasurer Marc Villeneuve in recent weeks, the CAO reiterated just how solid he believes the numbers to be.

“To reach this $4.3 million in annual savings, Town staff requested calls for service data between the years of 2013 and 2016 from the OPS and then placed that data into the OPP’s cost estimator tool. When you consider the analysis undertaken by Town Staff and the review conducted by (independent auditing firm) BDO, I’d suggest these are now very firm numbers,” Mr. Brennan said.

While he did not call the CAO out in quite the same way he did with Mr. Villeneuve back when the municipal treasurer presented his analysis to council back in April, Mayor Jeremy Williams remains unconvinced with the promise of untold riches should the municipality disband its local police force in favour of the provincial unit.

With many asking for a strict apples-to-apples cost comparison between the OPS and OPP, Town Staff did its best to provide as accurate an observation as possible. Between now and 2021, the OPS is slated to charge the Town in the region of $28 million for its policing services. Under the terms of an obligatory three-year transitional contract with the OPP, the municipality will be billed just over $27.5 million for a total savings of $385,000. Once transitioned into the OPP’s new billing model, the annual savings of $4.3 million per year kick in. According to Mr. Brennan, the municipality could see accumulated savings of $22 million by 2025.

Mr. Brennan broke the numbers down even further so as to explain the “significance” of such savings.

“Just to put things into perspective, $4.3 million represents approximately 13 percent of the Town’s total annual tax levy. I’ve heard people say since the OPP bills municipalities based on its calls for service, that the OPP numbers could go up… Calls for service would have to triple in volume before the Town would reach the present 2016 cost for policing in Orangeville. We would have to see a huge increase in our crime rate,” Mr Brennan said. “But, one could say that if the OPP would see a large surge in costs should that scenario arise, then the OPS would have to act accordingly also in increasing its budget.”

He went on to note that the municipality has incurred legal costs of roughly $2 million because of lawsuits launched against the OPS. Under the OPP policing model, the Province would assume responsibility for any lawsuit brought forward in Orangeville, drastically reducing risk and liability for the Town.

Mr. Brennan also tackled the argument that there would be a significant economic effect should council choose to disband OPS, with OPP officials confirming that at least 17 civilians would lose their jobs under its policing model.

“It’s hard to measure the economic impact of losing 17 positions in the civilian workforce. I would have to understand where they live, what their income is, what is the source of the disposable income, do they own their current residence, do they rent, do they shop in town,” Mr. Brennan said. “What we do know is that the economic impact of over $4 million in savings each year would be significant both for the economy and our residents.”

With such a large potential windfall within council’s grasp, Mr. Brennan suggested the possibilities were endless if the municipality were to have an extra $4 million in funding each year.

“When you think about what we could do with such money… It would be up to our council, of course, but we could be looking at such things as multi-year tax freezes or reductions. We could look into addressing our infrastructure deficit, we could carry out much-needed upgrades at the Tony Rose (Memorial Sports Centre), we could look into investing in high-speed internet for our residents and business owners.”

He added, “We have a range of different plans and studies we’ve undertaken, we could start working towards realizing recommendations in a lot of those plans. We could boost programming for youth, seniors, persons with disabilities. That is all possible if council choose to spend accordingly.”

Having the ability to carry out such major investment projects would significantly improve the Town’s economic competitiveness, Mr. Brennan continued. Finally, he stated that while there would be significant savings under the OPP, he did not agree with suggestions that the municipality would be settling for a lesser service.

“OPP is a capable and professional police force. There’s no reason to expect any decrease in policing service if the Town is policed by the OPP,” Mr. Brennan said.

Under the terms of its proposal, the OPP has committed to providing 42.58 FTE (full-time equivalent) hours in Orangeville – comparative to the OPS, which currently has 42 officers. However, five of those officer positions are currently vacant, including the deputy chief position. There have been some suggestions in the community that the OPS is deliberately keeping those positions open so as to keep costs down in light of the current situation, although Police Chief Wayne Kalinski has dismissed those claims.

“We’re up to strength… The only vacancy we have right now is the deputy chief position. We are not short at Orangeville Police Service,” Kalinski told council on Monday.

Coun. Scott Wilson thanked the CAO and his staff for putting together what he described as an “excellent report.”

“The whole community has been debating this issue for some time. I believe our CAO captured the concerns clearly and has come to a very reasonable conclusion,” Coun. Wilson said.

The issue will be back before council at its next meeting on June 12, where it is widely expected they will make an official decision on the OPP’s costing proposal.

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